Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Federal Government has expressed concerns over the rate of avoidable and untimely deaths at public hospitals in Abuja, which it said was a result of poor medical attention being recently offered by health care workers.
The government said the frequency of reports of very sick persons being rejected outrightly or abandoned by hospitals is unacceptable, confirming that many of the patients have died having been denied medical attention at hospitals, or told there was no bed, often after they might have made long journeys from one hospital to the other in search of medical help.
The ministers of Health and the FCT, Dr Osagie Ehanire and Muhammad Musa Bello, respectively, giving their remarks at a meeting with medical directors of government-owned hospitals in Abuja on Thursday, said ‘this is unacceptable and not good for our image and profession.’
Health Minister Dr Osagie said in his address: ‘We cannot afford to continue to lose so many of our people who have found their way to a hospital only to lose their lives to health conditions, some of which could have been cured. We know that not all emergencies are COVID-19, and we also know that our professional oaths oblige us to save lives and do something medically possible for those who come to us for help.
‘Our calling as doctors and health workers is simply to save lives. We cannot at this time abandon such divine responsibility especially in case of emergency when our services are most needed. The situation calls for re-examining our system.
‘I clearly understand that health workers are rightfully concerned about their safety in COVID-19 pandemic, hence, we have provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), necessary training and an infection prevention and control protocol for doctors, nurses and other health care workers to discharge their duties safely, without risks to themselves.
‘I am also aware that many patients are left unattended after admission, or even die while waiting for the result of their COVID-19 or other tests, which sometimes take as long as 3-6 days to be released. This has to change and to address it I have directed that a side laboratory for GeneXpert COVID-19 diagnostic machines, which deliver results within one hour, should be deployed and activated at the National Hospital Abuja and the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), to cut down waiting time. I also direct that basic diagnostic side laboratories be set up at the Emergency Centres of major hospitals.
‘We shall, therefore, hold each personally accountable for the outcomes emanating from your hospitals. No emergency should be denied attention, even if it means admitting on a stretcher or examination couch to give life-saving oxygen. You are to kindly ensure that patients are attended to with dignity and dispatch.’
The minister disclosed that, alongside his FCT counterpart, they would monitor and ensure that all steps are taken to minimize the suffering of persons trying to find access to treatment and to reduce the sad testimonies that hurt the reputation of Nigeria’s health system.
‘In addition to that, we shall also ensure that PPE and commodities are constantly made available to public hospitals in FCT. We have equally agreed on a protocol to make all major public hospitals in the FCT catchment area, whether managed by Federal or FCT administration, to be COVID-19 sample collection sites, to facilitate fast sample collection, reduce turn-around time for test results and bring more efficiency to the response strategy.
‘Also, we asked hospitals to make space available and select health workers undergo special training for this purpose, so that all are prepared and equipped to protect themselves, and also scale up testing,’ he explained.