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NMA: We’ve lost 16 doctors to COVID-19

…says #EndSARS protest could increase virus surge

Out of the 1,031 doctors so far infected with Coronavirus in the course of carrying out their duties, no fewer than 16 doctors in the country have died trying to save the lives of infected persons.

President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah, made the disclosure yesterday in Abuja, while addressing newsmen on the occasion of the 2020 Physicians Week with the theme: ‘Strategy for Health System Recovery During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria.’ According to him, the deaths and high number of doctors infected by the virus while on active duty, was due to the inadequate protective materials available and accessible to health workers including doctors, in the hospitals.

Represented by Chairman, NMA Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter, Dr. Enema Amodu, he raised concerns that the number of doctors’ deaths and infections in the country would have been higher, if not for the donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by the various medical associations and some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). He appealed to both federal and state governments to forestall more deaths by ensuring PPE were made readily available and accessible to doctors and other health workers in the country.

His words: “As at 8th October 2020, there were 1,031 doctors who were exposed to the virus in Nigeria and 321 confirmed cases. Sadly, 16 (mortality rate of 4.98%) of our members were painfully lost in the battle to save the lives of Nigerians.

“If not for other NGOs and medical institutions that went out of their way not to wait for government to deliver, we possibly would have recorded much more than that because we as professionals, even in our own affiliate associations, took it upon ourselves to provide some of these things; face masks hand sanitizers for ourselves, while some other NGOs went round making donations.

“We have engaged the PTF severally and we are still engaging them because of the inadequacy, it is never enough. These are disposable consumables you use and discard. So because you supplied last week does not mean we won’t need this week and next week, it’s a continuum.”

Ujah, who maintained that the pandemic has exposed the poor state of the nation’s health sector, including the lack of life saving equipment such as ventilators and intensive care beds, urged government at all levels to make health a priority and increase the budgetary allocations to the sector, in line with the Abuja declaration of 2001, which mandated African governments to allocate 15 per cent of their annual budget to the health sector. “There is some distance still to travel to ensure that health care is affordable and accessible to all citizens for universal health coverage to be achieved.

“At the heart of the fragile health system is the perennial failure of government; federal, state and local, to prioritise health and allocate adequate resources to it. Nigeria’s allocation to health in 2020 was a mere 4.16 per cent of the budget and it is unpredictable how much of the fund would be released for the care of the people of Nigeria.” Commenting on the ongoing #EndSARS protest in the country, the NMA raised the alarm of an upsurge in the infection rate of COVID-19 pandemic which has, in the last few weeks, declined drastically, due to the breach of COVID-19 guidelines in public gatherings.

“Some of these grievances have affected even our own members, but we have always implored the channels of diplomacy and decorum. You can’t go and tell a mob protesting to wear masks or make use of hand sanitizers because, at that point in time, nobody is thinking about it. “COVID-19 is very much present with us and we implore people to take necessary precautions. And when people gather together like that, it is scientifically proven that an upsurge is likely to occur. We are not prophets of doom, but those are just scientifically logistical conclusions.”

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