Nigeria Has Only 450 Ventilators, 300 Anaesthetists Despite Rising Cases of COVID-19

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By Martins Ifijeh

With the spread of COVID-19 to 26 states and the fear that the number of cases may increase in the coming weeks, there are indications that the country is yet to ramp up preparations for intensive care for patients who may end up with serious symptoms of the virus.

As at Thursday, the country only has 450 ventilators, while doctors trained in the management of intensive care patients, known as anaesthetists, are only about 300 in the country.

Between April 9 and April 23, the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria has moved beyond 300 per cent from 278 to 873, and from 16 states to 27 all within 14 days; a trend that suggests within the coming weeks the country may be battling with thousands of COVID-19 cases across the country.

The National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, who spoke at a virtual media press briefing held by the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organisation Thursday, said before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria, the country had only 350 ventilators and that so far, about 100 had been added.

He however lamented that the major concern was that the country did not have enough trained health personnel for intensive care.

He said: “Ventilators alone do not run intensive care units. Our major limitation is training of healthcare workers particularly because of the unavailability of anaesthetists. It is impossible to train healthcare workers in this specialised field within a very short period of time. That is my concern.”

On his part, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) raised the alarm that the country has only 300 critical care doctors; an amount grossly insufficient should the country’s COVID-19 cases surge.

Speaking during the Morning Show on Arise TV, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, recently, 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 percentages 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.

“Should Nigeria get say 10,000 cases of COVID-19, WHO projection would mean at least 500 persons may require intensive care including the use of ventilators and the expertise of anaesthesists; both the country has in short supply.”