The coalition of healthcare professionals including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA); Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN); and the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) have unanimously called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to provide conducive and safe working environments for all healthcare workers highly exposed to the risk of contracting the deadly Coronavirus.
The leadership of the three associations decried the deplorable working conditions of their members in the hospitals, while calling on the government to supply Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), ventilators, test kits, and all other essential equipment and devices to enable the health workers deliver safe and effective care to patients.
They further condemned the appalled working conditions of healthcare professionals, characterized by understaffing, shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), long working hours, poor salary and risk allowance, “and the unpreparedness of our weak health system despite our persistent early warnings and by the WHO, that health workers are exposed at work to fatal hazards that threaten their health, their families’ health, putting in peril the capacity of the health system to respond to the emergency of COVID-19 pandemic”.
Presidents of NMA, PSN, NANNM, in a joint statement issued to the press bared their minds on government’s insensitivity to the plight of frontline health workers in the war against the global pandemic, warning that if there is no urgent actions to correct the anomalies, the nation’s weak healthcare delivery system may be comatose sooner than later.
“The times we are living in requires both government and frontline actors to focus on a set of immediate targeted emergency actions. The health workforce is facing the most acute crisis our members have ever been confronted with in recent years, except perhaps in 2014 when Ebola virus disease was also imported into our country.
“Health workers represent about 12 per cent of the COVID-19 infected population globally, and the death toll is getting unbearable. We mourn with a great sense of sorrow the demise of Dr. Aliyu Yakubu, a Katsina State private medical practitioner who is the first casualty from our community of practitioners”, they stated.
The healthcare practitioners also pointed it out to government that the greatest killer of Nigerians as at today is not COVID-19, describing how Lassa fever, malaria, other infectious diseases, as well as non-communicable diseases are still rife and actually killing more patients.
They did not fail to mention the dire need of motivation for these frontline warriors, in form of regular and timely payment of salaries, emoluments and other incentives including paid leave, childcare and security to all workers who must continue working.
“The fact that healthcare workers are still being kidnapped by criminals or harassed by security agents on their way to work leaves much to be desired. Government at all levels must take practical steps to safeguard all health workers. We do not want health workers who save lives to be called heroes. They are not heroes! They are professionals who claim and deserve respect, dignity, the right to protection, recognition, decent wages and decent working conditions” they emphasized.
Restating their commitment to partner governments at all levels, the healthcare professionals disclosed that they have jointly established a Special Health Response Squad of volunteers from the three associations to provide a pool of well trained professionals to complement what the government already has on ground. The Special Health Response Squad would be well kitted with adequate PPEs.
They further hinted on the newly created Squad, saying it would be divided into different categories according to areas of need; with some working at the isolation centres, while some will engage in information, education and communication with the media.
The leadership of the three healthcare groups, vehemently expressed their disappointment of government’s action in bringing on board the Chinese doctors in spite of all the evidence based warnings from the various health professional associations and other stakeholders in the country.
They however warned sternly that “under no condition should they be allowed near any Nigerian patient directly or remotely. They must observe supervised mandatory quarantine for 14 days and be tested for COVID-19 appropriately, as per protocol, before they are allowed into the streets or communities”.