are givers in Federal Government-owned hospitals are torn between charging their patients for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) or watching them die; as they have not been provided with enough PPEs with which to safely carry out their duties.
A consultant in one of the tertiary facilities in Lagos, who confided in Sunday Telegraph, said for most part of last week, the management team of the facility were holed up in brain storming sessions on how to go about their duties without themselves becoming victims in the face of the coronavirus pandemic which is ravaging the land.
“The ministry (of health) is trying to force us to see patients even when they have not provided anything to protect us. What some of us want to start doing now is to pass the cost of PPEs and other essential items on to patients since government is not providing them. We have been busy planning, meeting and finding a way round this conundrum.”
Our source with a tinge of sadness in his voice continued: “You journalists should ask the minister (of health) how many public hospitals have adequate number of PPEs, face shields, goggles, proper masks to protect ourselves as health care workers?
“It is not enough for him to just give instructions that all patients must be attended to. How do we do that without the basic things needed? Does he want to push us to our deaths?
“I can give a patient a list to provide PPEs, goggles, face masks and face shields before I operate on them, but is it their duty to buy those things? How many can afford to buy those things? How many PPEs are available in each hospital? I ask for eight items for surgery, they give one – is that something to be happy about?”
Asked to give the outcome of the meetings, he answered emphatically: “For now patients should buy or I buy myself. We do not know what to do yet. You can help the patients and the healthcare workers by asking the minister pertinent questions.”
But the new President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah vowed to tackle health facilities where the burden of providing PPEs was now being passed on to patients before attending to their medical needs.
Ujah, who spoke in exclusive interview with the Sunday Telegraph, said telling patients to provide PPE was not advisable. “That is not right. We will discourage that practice.
“If we know any particular state or hospital that is doing that, please let me know, I will call the medical director to put things right; it is the duty of hospitals to provide PPE.”
He spoke while reacting to claims that some medical personnel and health workers were now including PPE in items that patients would purchase in hospitals before their medical conditions could be addressed.
Speaking further he said: “If this truly happens that patients are told to provide PPEs in the Nigerian health system, it is a very big challenge for PPE provision.”
Ujah recalled that when the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) went on strike in the past weeks, one of their grievances was the shortage/non-availability of PPEs.
However, he noted that it was not a good thing to hear that patients are being told to provide PPE because “you cannot send a battalion of army to the war front and then you don’t give them ammunition”.
Reacting, the Minister of Health, Dr. Emmanuel Ehanire, speaking through the ministry’s Director of Information, Olujimi Oyetomi said it is not true that he is forcing doctors to attend to patients without PPEs.
Also, he debunked the claim that there were not enough PPEs in government hospitals across the country.
According to him, health workers and hospitals were only asked to desist from rejecting patients who were in need of healthcare services, to prevent more deaths being caused by the fear of health workers in contracting COVID-19 while offering care and treatment to patients.
He said: “Where is the claim coming from specifically? At two fora on Thursday, the minister stated it that PPEs have been sent to all hospitals and the Minister of the FCT said same. The Medical Director of Nyanya General Hospital also said they have stock that can last the next three months.
“The Minister would never ask doctors to treat without PPEs. The basic PPE you need is just your gloves, face masks and clinical gowns to go to work rather than allowing an individual who is critically sick and needing medicine die because he was rejected and not attended to.
“The minister never forced anybody to treat without gloves, no it is not possible.”
On the number of PPEs allotted each public hospital, he said: “The PPEs are sent based on needs through state governors or FCT minister in the case of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“Besides we have a central store where emergency stocks are kept in case of short notice it will be rushed to them. We don’t disburse all; some are kept for emergency needs.”