COVID-19: Nigeria Has Only 300 Critical Care Doctors, NMA Raises the Alarm


*Says FG’s refusal to pay university workers may hamper research on vaccine, cure

By Martins Ifijeh

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has raised the alarm that the country has only 300 critical care doctors, a number grossly insufficient should Nigeria’s COVID-19 cases surge beyond expectation.

The association also said the various researches on vaccines and cure by university scholars in the country may be hampered by federal government’s refusal to pay three months salaries it owes university workers.

Speaking during the Morning Show on Arise TV, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers Tuesday, the President, NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, said these set of doctors were trained to care for patients needing intensive care but that they were in short supply in the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said five percent of persons positive for COVID-19 will require serious and specialised care at intensive care units.

Faduyile said: “Those trained to operate critical care units are majorly the critical care anaesthesiologists. Unfortunately, we have only 300 of them in the country. Should there be a surge in COVID-19, it will mean we are in a short supply. Generally, we do not have enough doctors in Nigeria.

“But beyond the numbers, how many of our doctors are encouraged to take up the treatment of COVID-19? This is around the 7th week since COVID-19 started in Nigeria, yet there is no health insurance or incentives for doctors and other health workers on the front line. Up to date, no government paper or a categorical statement encouraging our members. Some Nigerians fighting the disease will need highly skilled personnel, yet these workforces are not encouraged.”

He said in the last three months, Lassa fever had killed over 135 medical and health workers, adding that government has yet to take steps to motivate health workers facing the COVID-19 pandemic?

He also mentioned that university scholars who are to provide scientific solutions, including vaccines and cure were being owed three months’ salary by the federal government, adding that this may hamper critical scientific researches against the pandemic in the country.

He said: “Our professors, lecturers have not been paid. Government must be able to allow those who will think and give us scientific directions to do so. I urge government to rethink its issues with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for now.”

On claims that the federal government was in talks with an insurance firm to provide life insurance to health workers fighting the pandemic, the NMA president said no health worker has been given any form of insurance.

“Some insurance companies have offered to give insurance to health workers, but what we hear is N1 million or N2 million life insurance for highly specialised nurses, doctors or consultants. You should know that this is gross under-issuance. Let government come out to tell us what it has done, so we know who they have insured.”

On hazard allowance, he said no health workers had received such, adding that even though the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) promised to pay N30, 000 and N20, 000 daily to the doctors and nurses on the front line, none of such personnel had been paid.

“As we speak, we have a state chairman that has been infected, we have a president of one of our associations that has been infected, and we have several health workers that have been infected as at today. These people did not get COVID-19 while they were in their homes. They got it during treatment of Nigerians.”

On the use of face masks, he said it was a good development, but that this must be practiced along with social distancing.

“The best face mask is the N95 which gives 95 per cent protection, and medical mask gives 50 per cent protection, while fabric mask is around 15-20 percent depending on the material it is made of. The first two should be left for health workers attending to patients. Members of the public should use the fabric mask.”

He also warned that the authorities must intensify mass testing in order to pull positive persons out of circulation, as failure to do so would mean the pandemic will be too severe for the country to handle.

“We were not doing mass screening before. As at last week, we screened about 5000 persons. We need to intensify mass screening to know the real incidence. If we miss putting those in circulation into isolation centres, there will be unfettered transmission within the community, and lockdown will continue.

On the treatment of COVID-19 patients by private hospitals, he said the management of the disease requires specialized skills including training for nurses, cleaners, doctors and other frontline line workers.

“So far, the federal government has said none of the private facilities has been accredited which means they have not met the requirement. It is best private hospitals are not involved because of the skill required. This is a highly contagious disease. In the UK, Boris Johnson did not go to any private facility. He went to NHS, which is the UK’s public health institution. If we make our public health institutions good enough, even the highly placed people will go there,” he added.