Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
The consultant doctors under the aegis of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) have lamented that the outbreak of COVID-19 has exposed the rout and the abysmally poor state of Nigerian health system.
The President of MDCAN, Professor Ken Ozoilo, who addressed the press in Jos yesterday, feared the likelihood of a spike in the cases of infection and mortality from the COVID-19 in Nigeria judging from the experience of other more endowed countries so far.
Ozoilo said: “This pandemic has exposed the abysmally poor state of the Nigerian health system. This has arisen from chronic neglect and under-funding of the sector by successive governments and the refusal to look into concerns and advice of the health care practitioners over the years.
“We have repeatedly lamented the poor conditions of service, poor infrastructure, lukewarm attitude to effecting reforms that will make the sector accessible to a greater majority of Nigerians and the ravages of brain drain in the sector, but all these have fallen on deaf ears over the years.
“It must be abundantly clear that the sorry state of the health sector in Nigeria today is not necessarily a reflection of lack of funds, but rather the choices that we have made and the things we have prioritised over health. The current pandemic must however be seen not as a time for lamentations, but another opportunity to make the right decisions about what truly matters to us a people and how to begin to correct the ills suffered by this sector in the past.”
The MDCAN said that information reaching it from different chapters of the association across the country showed that frontline personnel in the fight against the COVID-19 do not have enough supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gowns, gloves, masks among others.
This, according to the association, has put the lives of these frontline personnel.
The MDCAN said: “These items are meant to be available for use as a matter of routine, and not only after a diagnosis has been established. Furthermore, going by the natural history of the disease, transmission occurs prior to onset of symptoms, meaning that protection is required from healthy looking carriers and not just those who are already down with the full blown disease.
“We are in receipt of reports from across the country to the effect that only few states and institutions have taken the pains to establish functional isolation centres. We want to reiterate that the opportunity to act is now. Waiting till an index case to occur, or for an escalation in the numbers so far diagnosed, is a grave error.
“We strongly advise that while this situation subsists, Accident and Emergency (A&E) Departments in all hospitals should put in place a system for screening and triage of all patients before access to the A&E floor and contact with large numbers of health personnel and other patients.”
The association said that experiences from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), have shown that contact with even one COVID-19 patient would result in the quarantine of large numbers of doctors and other scarce health personnel, who are desperately needed in the response effort to contain the virus.
The association also raised a concern over the number of testing centres available in the country, saying “while we commend the effort of the NCDC in expanding the capacity of the country by increasing the number of centres that can carry out the test, we believe that more needs to be done in this regard. Given the population of Nigeria, it is very important that greater efforts be made to expand and further decentralise testing, which is not only critical to identifying and containing threats for further infection, but is also necessary for freeing up resources from cases that are suspected but negative in favour of those who do actually need them”
The MDCAN further urged the state governments to set up more isolation centres and take meaningful steps to ensure that such centres are made habitable and in good sanitary condition to reduce the chances of inmates escaping from these centres because of discomfort.
Ozoilo also spoke on the invitation of foreign doctors. He said: “We wish to caution government on the use of foreign medical professionals in the current effort. It is not always that a copy and paste solution works. Nigeria has quite a large pool of capable hands that can and should be harnessed in this effort. Our membership comprises the highest echelons of medical specialists of national and international repute, and we hereby place their collective expertise and experience at the disposal of the government across the country.
“While it is prudent to learn from successes stories of others, it is also prudent to be mindful of the fact that the disease appears to be clearly manifesting local epidemiological characteristics that must be studied carefully and taken into account in developing an effective and efficient local response.”