2020: COVID-19 Exposed Nigeria’s Health Sector Inadequacies – NMA

The novel coronavirus disease known as COVID-19 which was first recorded in Nigeria on February 27, 2020 has been described as an eye opener into the abysmal level of decay in the nation’s health sector.

Dr Jide Onyekwelu, Chairman South East caucus of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) said this in his Christmas message to members of the association.

Onyekwelu, in his message advised that laid down protocols should be observed to prevent the spread of the second wave of the virus in Nigeria.

He said peoples’ expectations were cut short as COVID-19 came with sequences of devastation on the nation’s economy leading to shutdown of schools, stagnation of the hospitality industry and ban of local and international travels .

“Medical tourism came to an abrupt halt. The inadequacies of our healthcare delivery system were exposed, nakedness revealed was ugly,” Onyekwelu said.

“It revealed the gaps that would have been filled if past governments were serious with healthcare provision in the country.”

“It was like the chicken coming home to roost; the high and mighty, both in government and healthcare delivery, fell, some people lost their lives to the pandemic.”

He lamented that “ just as we started celebrating the recession of the harbinger of destruction, a second wave has come calling, strangely coinciding with Christmas.”

According to him, the year 2020 can be best described as a season of anomie.

Onyekwelu who is also the chairman of NMA, Anambra State chapter said the greatest protection Nigerians needed was to strictly obey the COVID-19 protocol by regular wash of hands, use of hand sanitisers when necessary, correct use of face mask and maintenance of physical distancing.

“For the healthcare providers, we additionally need to maintain standard precautions always, use appropriate Personal Protection Equipment always and believe God for protection,” he said.

“As we celebrate Christmas let us have our eyes wide open, gatherings are inevitable. We must as much as possible, in areas where we have jurisdiction, ensure that gatherings are in the open space where social distancing can be maintained.”

“We will ensure that people wear their face masks always and maintain good hand hygiene by washing their hands always and sanitize, as necessary.”

He called on governments at various levels to make private medical practitioners part of their COVID-19 management strategy in view of the critical role they play in the healthcare delivery value chain.

Onyekwelu said NMA in Anambra donated PPEs to private medical practitioners through their association just as they extended the same to three tertiary health institutions in the state.

He said the private practitioner was most vulnerable and needed the most protection and regretted that the spectrum of involvement of the private sector in health was often not appreciated in health intervention programs and logistics.

“NMA Anambra State appreciates the dilemma of the private medical practitioner. That informed the donation of the PPEs to AGPMPN, just as we distributed to Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Amaku, Awka and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Medical Center, Awka,” he said.

The NMA chairman said the body worked assiduously with the Ministry of Health to combat and contain the pandemic in Anambra noting that the state remained one of the few states in Nigeria that are almost fully combat ready to contain COVID-19.

“Every Local Government Area in Anambra has trained sample collectors, patients do not have to be referred to government establishments for sample collection nor does the state epidemiologist have to move to a patient’s home to drag him/her to the testing center.”

“The testing centers and facilities available on ground are yearning for samples, case definition and management have been greatly liberalized. Only an high index of suspicion qualifies one as a suspected case,” he said.

According to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 1,242 deaths have been recorded in relation to COVID-19 in Nigeria with 11,070 active cases and 81, 863 confirmed cases out of 912,114 samples tested as of December 25, 2020.

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