The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, has been strengthening measures to ensure an outbreak in Nigeria is controlled and contained quickly. The multi-sectoral Coronavirus Preparedness Group, led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has since activated its national Emergency Operations Centre and will work closely with Lagos State Health authorities to respond to this case and implement firm control measures. “I wish to assure all Nigerians that have we have been beefing up our preparedness capabilities since the first confirmation of cases in China, and we will use all the resources made available by the government to respond to this case. “We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient, since he entered Nigeria. Please be reminded that most people who become infected may experience only mild illness and recover easily, but it can be more severe in others, particularly the elderly and persons with other underlying chronic illnesses. All Nigerians should take care of their health and maintain hand and respiratory hygiene to protect themselves and others, including their own families, following the precautions below: 1. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 2. Maintain at least 1 & half metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. 3. Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay home or keep a social distance, but not mix in crowd. 4. Make sure you and people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve at the bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. 5. Stay home if you feel unwell with symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Please call NCDC toll free number which is available day and night, for guidance- 0800-970000-10. Do not engage in self-medication 6. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 through official channels on TV and Radio, including the Lagos State Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health. Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic. The Federal Ministry of Health, through Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, will continue to provide updates and will initiate all measures required to prevent the spread of any outbreak in Nigeria,” announced Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Hon. Minister of Health. As at the time of filing this article, over 9,000 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria, over 3,000 cases have been discharged and about 300 deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory, having carried out 48,544 tests. AKWA IBOM COVID-19 INDEX CASES -Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialty Hospital. As at April 1, 2020, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 5 cases of the disease in Akwa Ibom State, and Dr Otobong Asuquo, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, was one of the cases. Dr Asuquo, in his detailed account after recovering from the disease at Ibom Specialist Hospital in Uyo, said he received a call immediately from the state COVID-19 team to get set that an ambulance would be coming to pick him. Different thoughts went through his mind: his dear wife, children, and when he saw how others in different parts of the world were passing away, he thought his end was near! At the isolation centre, Dr Asuquo said he enjoyed his stay because of the privacy, the modern facilities, and equipment at the hospital. “You don't know what is happening and who is in the next room. Constant water and light, it's like having the U.S. in Akwa Ibom,” he said in a video chat. He added that he was surprised to know that all the rooms there are equipped with Television sets (with DSTV) and that there's free WIFI for browsing the Internet, which made him stay updated and worked on his personal project. Although he was silent on the treatment he received that led to his recovery in less than two weeks, he was thankful to the state government for a job well done. “I want to give kudos to the Akwa Ibom State Government because I know without them, this wouldn't have been possible and also for the [COVID-19] team.” Akwa Ibom State so far has 35 active cases of the disease, with 2 deaths and 14 recoveries of which Dr Asuquo is one of them.
Healthcare delivery plays a critical role in the development of any economy and indeed the society at large. The World Economic Forum had in 2017 ranked health and primary education on the fourth pair of global competitiveness critical to the advancement of nations’ economies.
Perhaps, this explains why successive administrations in the state may have paid great deal of attention to healthcare delivery knowing too well that other sectors of the state’s economy may not yield the desired dividends without a healthy population of its citizenry. The massive renovation, reconstruction and revamping of secondary health facilities in the state are testimonies that the present administration of Deacon Udom Emmanuel prioritizes healthcare delivery. The governor has so far carried out interventions in secondary healthcare centres across the three senatorial districts of the state.
The present administration has equally sustained the free healthcare policy for children under five years of age, pregnant women and the aged, among other health programmes initiated by the wife of the Governor, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel under the Family Empowerment and Youth Re-orientation Programme (FEYReP).
Irrespective of these interventions, a lot still needs to be done to confront the stark realities and challenges in the sector. The state health policy supports healthy living for sound body and mind as well as combating diseases through the operation of an accessible, affordable, efficient and integrated healthcare delivery system based on primary healthcare services.
The state of our primary healthcare centres leaves much to be desired and that is why many pregnant women in the rural communities still prefer to give birth at churches or in the hands of traditional birth attendants, not minding the resultant consequences. An inquest into the state of our health facilities reveals a number of factors why people still prefer to give birth in private hospitals, for those who can afford it, or at an alternative place, when the bills are above their reach. How on earth would the Health Management Board expect a pregnant woman to give birth in a health centre where there are no facilities for delivery, no good source of water, poor power supply and the worst of it all, unavailability of drugs? These and other factors may have given rise to poor attitude to work and at the worst case, the professional negligence among other negative conducts of health workers in the state.
One Stephen Noble from Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area who was a couple of months ago involved in an auto crash had written on his Facebook page how many patients were left unattended to at the Methodist Hospital, Ituk Mbang, which is one of the recently renovated hospitals in the state. In an attempt by an employee of the hospital to cover up their negligence, the staff explained that the situation was caused out of depression and frustrations of the personnel on duty, whom she said were understaffed. The staff revealed further that some of the medical equipment purported to have been supplied to the hospital by the state government were yet to arrive months after the commissioning of the newly renovated hospital.
Just recently, the Creek News paid an unscheduled visit to the recently renovated General Hospital at Iquita Oron, and the stories were just the same. While waiting to obtain approval from the hospital management in order to inspect the facilities donated to the hospital by the state government, our correspondent gathered that some of the equipment donated were refurbished and mal-functioning. Even though the superintendent had declined to speak to our reporter, insisting that he must obtain permission from the Hospital Management Board, some patients who spoke with our correspondent indicated their quest for an improved service delivery, devoid of the renovation work done at the hospital.
Though he commended the state government for the aesthetics, an heir of the Paramount Ruler, Prince Akwa Akan had longed for an improved quality of health service at the hospital. Prince Akan had raised concern about the power supply in the hospital of which he noted, last till 10 or 11pm, a situation he noted has dampened the spirits of patients who would have loved to patronize the health facility at night. He however called on the relevant authority to provide an alternative source of power to the accident and emergency units of the hospital.
Health workers among other stakeholders in the sector have in different fora called on government to do more than renovating or building health centres, but should exercise the political will to implement its primary healthcare policy for a healthier society. Despite government programmes, like the free healthcare policy for children and pregnant women, which has helped in reduction of infant and maternal death, the none implementation of primary healthcare policies in the state has given room to more challenges such as inadequate funding and lack of capacity by the implementing agency which in this case is the local government councils.
To overcome these challenges, the state government should be more committed to the implementation of its health policies by allocating more funds in its annual budget. Secondly, project implementation in the health sector must be given special attention to avoid sabotage of government effort. It is unacceptable to note that government has in the past, been shortchanged with near-obsolete equipment for brand new ones.
Hence, those in-charge must ensure proper monitoring evaluation and control of hospital equipment purchased for health centres.
Baring his mind on the way forward, the state Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Nsikak Nyoyoko called on the government to ensure that people of the state are made to enjoy the universal health coverage. He said this could be achieved by strengthening primary healthcare delivery system as well as putting in place a functional health insurance scheme that caters for all strata of society including the poorest and the most vulnerable. According to him, this is achievable, if the state health insurance bill is given an executive ascent and it is religiously implemented.
To address the critical shortage of specialized health workers, poor state of health facilities and equipment at various primary healthcare centres, medical practitioners in remote areas should be considered for specialized trainings to enable them confront the multitude of health challenges in the rural areas. On the other hand, the government should be ready to provide modern laboratory equipment to ensure proper diagnosis of ailments and provision of better healthcare to the vulnerable population.