Tough times await health facilities that have developed the habit of rejecting or abandoning sick persons for fear of COVID-19 as the federal government has warned that they will pay dearly for the outcomes from such hospitals.
The government’s decision came on the heels of disturbing reports of very sick persons being rejected and abandoned by hospitals due to fear of Coronavirus.
The federal government is worried that in recent times many Nigerians have died having been denied attention in hospitals or told there was no bed space, after making marathon journeys from one hospital to the other in search of medical help.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed the government’s position yesterday at the joint meeting of ministers of Health and medical directors of government hospitals in FCT catchment area in Abuja.
He warned that the act was unacceptable as the country cannot afford to continue to lose so many of its citizens who have found their way to a health facility only to lose their lives to health conditions, some of which could have been cured.
“I appeal to all medical directors, who we have specifically invited here today for this message, that we shall hold each personally accountable for the outcomes emanating from your hospitals. No emergency should be denied attention, even if it means admitting on a stretcher or examination couch to give lifesaving oxygen,” the minister warned.
Ehanire noted that not all emergencies are COVID-19, even as he reminded the heads of hospitals that their professional oaths oblige them to save lives and do something for those who come to them for help.
He said government, on its part, has made efforts to provide PPEs to all hospitals and conduct training for health workers on infection prevention and control so that they can stay safe as they deliver service.
He stated: “Our calling as doctors and health workers is to save lives. We cannot at this time abandon a divine responsibility especially in case of emergency when our service is most needed. The situation calls for reexamining our system.
“I understand that health workers are rightfully concerned about their safety in covid-19 pandemic. So, we have provided PPEs, training and an infection prevention and control protocol for doctors and nurses to discharge our duties safely, without risks to themselves.
“But we in the healthcare sector cannot afford negative impact on our sector and must be mindful of the collateral damage that can befall us, wipe out disease control gains we have made in past decades and threaten our not so strong health system.
“Efforts to control covid19 must not be at the expense of allowing other diseases that are equally life threatening to begin to thrive and increase mortality. It would be a serious setback if medical services, especially emergency medical service, begin to deteriorate in the wake of fighting COVID-19.
“There are places today, where we suspect that needless mortality from other diseases has overtaken the threat of COVID-19. We are beginning to see that fear of, or focus, on coronavirus are making some health institutions lose sight of other health hazards in our ccommunities. Immunization rate, skilled birth attendance, RMNCH+N have declined. We must therefore take steps to ensure that we sustain routine health services to our people.”
On testing, Ehanire hinted that he has directed that a side Laboratory for GeneXpert COVID-19 diagnostic machines, which deliver results within one hour, should be deployed and activated at the National Hospital Abuja and the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital to cut down waiting time.
He continued: “I also direct that basic diagnostic side laboratories be set up at the Emergency centers of major hospitals.
“The Hon. Minister of FCT and I have agreed on a protocol to make all major public hospitals in the FCT catchment area, whether managed by Federal or FCT administration, to be covid-19 sample collection sites, to facilitate fast sample collection, reduce turn-around time for test results and bring more efficiency to the response strategy”.
Ehanire also disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Health’s plan is to focus more on minimizing fatalities by prioritizing preemptive admission to hospital for medical observation.
He said, “All persons who test positive for COVID-19 and meet our definition of vulnerability, even if they do not yet have classical symptoms. These include the elderly, diabetics, asthmatics and persons in treatment for chronic infections and conditions.
“This population group will also be targeted for risk communication and engagement to avoid nonessential travel and exposure to risk factors outside the home.”
On the Madagascar herbal remedy, the minister said that the preliminary results of the analysis of the herbs by NIPRID showed that it is the same as the plant, Artemisia anua, which is grown in the NIPRID farm.
He noted that further research on its efficacy will be conducted when the grants for research is approved.