Dr. Ikpeazu, Abia State Governor

…Task Gov. Ikpeazu on 14 months back-log

From PETER OKORE, Umuahia

The rate of spread of new cases of corona-virus(COVID-19)  by the day, and concern for easing of lockdown, as well as lack of fully-equipped and functional medical centres to face the challenges being posed by the disease in states of the federation, have become sources of worry to Resident medical Doctors. They asserted that, at present, reports from different Health centres across the country suggest obvious deficiencies in the capacity of various states to test/isolate or handle suspected Covid-19 patients and exposed individuals to dangers.

As a result, the medical practitioners have, therefore, called on the federal and state governments as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, to ensure the availability of a fully equipped and functional centre in every state of Nigeria for the testing,     isolation and treatment of the corona-virus pandemic, before relaxing the full-blown lockdown in the country.

Recently, members of the Association of Resident Doctors, ARD, serving in the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Umuahia, Abia state, expressed concern over the upsurge of COVID-19 patients being referred to the hospital on daily basis without corresponding equipment to handle the cases. They have, therefore, cried aloud that the isolation centre there is still ill-equipped to contend with the outbreak of the disease to meet the expectations of the Federal government-owned Hospital from the public.

 In a statement captioned: “Combating the COVID-19 pandemic in Abia – a call for action”, endorsed by the President, Dr Felix Onuh and made available to newsmen in Umuahia, the Association made it clear that the isolation centre at the hospital lacked such medical equipment like a functional ventilator and other consumables highly needed in handling the pandemic.

The Association stated that the hospital had only one ventilator at its Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which could not be moved to the isolation centre for the treatment of any emergency. It, therefore, called on the state government to complement efforts of the federal government by taking proactive actions to provide ventilators and consumables to the FMC Isolation Centre, Umuahia and other centres in the state.

According to the statement: “Government should not wait until there are further un-manageable emergency cases in the FMC, Umuahia before it acts. The poor state of the isolation centres in Abia state is quite worrisome. In this regard, the government must expeditiously equip and expand the existing facilities at FMC Umuahia as well as other isolation centres in the state.”

 “Right now, the hospital has successfully managed the two index cases of COVID-19 patients brought to the hospital and they are stable and doing well. But imagine when there is an upsurge in the number of cases in the state with increased pressure. This probably explains why government s, at all levels, must be proactive to provide the needed equipment necessary to fight this global pandemic.

 The association further noted that the two aged index cases, who were on admission in the hospital for other ailments before testing positive for COVID-19, brought to the fore, certain inadequacies faced by health service providers in Abia.

 “The situation in Abia and reports from different centres in the country suggest an obvious deficiency in the capacity of various states to test suspected patients and exposed individuals. The low numbers recorded in some of these states in the federation, at a time confirmed that the cases were rapidly rising due to community transmission of the virus.  Invariably this confers a false sense of security and confidence on the populace.

“This trend is dangerous and calls for a concerted effort from governments, at all levels, to ramp-up efforts to increase their capacity to test suspected cases and exposed individuals.

 On the way forward, the Association suggests: “Government must ensure that sufficient quantities of Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) and other consumables are made available for hospitals in the state. The concept of group life insurance must be introduced for all healthcare workers in the state, particularly, the front-line workers.

The group further expressed worry over, what it described as, the “abysmal level of compliance to the use of face masks and abuse of Government’s lockdown directives in Abia. Despite the government’s directives, human and vehicular movements mostly go on unhindered, a development sometimes abetted by the sharp practices among security agencies,” the statement added.

The association noted that for the lockdown to be effective in the state, the government must stop paying lip-service to the issue of palliatives to the people.

“It is, however, imperative to note that any lockdown directive without a commensurate distribution of sufficient palliatives to the citizens may not yield the desired result. Insisting that people stay at home without a commensurate plan to cater to the attendant economic crunch is a recipe for societal unrest. “Abia government should resist the temptation of only paying lip-service to the issue of palliatives, especially, for the poor and vulnerable in the state.

“We are disturbed by the unwillingness of health- care workers to make themselves available as volunteers to manage cases of COVID-19 in the state. Health workers are generally not confident that the state government will keep to its promise of paying their daily allowances and other packages in due time. The unfortunate situation of our colleagues in Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) and Health Management Board (HMB), who are owed about 14 months’ salary arrears quickly comes to mind,” NARD said.

The association, therefore, appealed to the Abia state government to urgently offset the backlog of salaries owed to ABSUTH and HMB workers to boost the confidence of health workers in the state, especially, at this critical period. The group also advocated an aggressive media campaign to educate residents on the mode of transmission of the corona-virus and basic preventive measures. It advised the people to maintain a good level of hygiene, safe use of hand sanitizers, proper handwashing practices, social distancing and proper use of face masks, among other measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic in the state.

Meanwhile, Abia government said that the 260 persons identified through its community contact tracing of those who could have had contacts with the two index cases(now discharged) have remained under surveillance and in self-isolation centres. The dusk to dawn curfew imposed by the state government to facilitate the community tracing of coronavirus contact patients has just been lifted (Monday).

 In his brief contribution, during a telephone interview, Chief Medical Director in-charge of the FMC, Umuahia, Dr Azubuike Onyebuchi stated that the hospital had no problem in managing the two index cases referred to the hospital. He confirmed that the patients were in stable condition and doing well presently. According to Onyebuchi FMC, Umuahia has a four-bed Isolation Centre that has treated only two COVID-19 patients.

“We do not lack the equipment and manpower to manage them. They are both stable and doing well and I am confident that they will soon pull through,” he said.

According to the FMC- boss Abia state has its Isolation centres at the General Hospital, Amachara, near Umuahia and ABSUTH, Aba, where COVID-19 cases from any part of the state, could be referred to.

“For the two index cases, who were already our patients before they tested positive for COVID-19, the hospital owes them a duty of care. We did not abandon them because they tested positive to the virus. It is our duty to continue to care for them until they are strong,” he said.

 Onyebuchi further disclosed that a group of Abia professionals were already building a 100-bedded Isolation Centre for the FMC, Umuahia. He said that the project, which began about two weeks ago, was at its roofing stage and would soon be completed and handed over to the hospital for use.

When commissioned, the new complex will improve accommodation at the centre, while the Federal Government would be expected to equip and upgrade the centre to serve humanity from the scourges of the pandemic.

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