About 113 health workers in Nigeria have, so far, tested positive for COVID-19, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said.
Mr Ehanire last week announced that at least 40 health workers in Nigeria have tested positive to the virus.
He had said apart from the over 40 health workers there are others “who have been quarantined in the last 2 weeks due to exposure and have not been able to contribute to efforts of the health sector.”
On Thursday, Mr Ehanire while responding to questions at the daily Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing said the number of infected health workers has increased to 113, about 6 per cent of the total 1,728 infected persons.
“Latest figures we have is that there are about 113 people in the health sector infected with COVID-19. Although they are not all public health workers, there are good numbers from private hospitals,” he said.
He explained that only health care workers with training in infectious diseases control are eligible to handle COVID-19 patients.
“If you hear us speaking here frequently against trying to treat coronavirus in private clinics, we are actually referring to those people who do so without having necessary precautions and training because they risk infecting themselves and go home and give this infection to their family.
“Healthcare workers who have no training have no business handling coronavirus,” he said.
The federal government had earlier barred private hospitals from treating COVID-19 cases, saying many of the health workers there are not trained to handle such a disease.
At least 17 private hospitals in Lagos have admitted that their staff have been exposed to COVID-19 through patients.
The hospitals were subsequently barred from admitting any patients while their buildings were disinfected.
The federal government has now asked private hospitals willing to treat COVID-19 patients to register with their state’s health ministry and ensure proper training of staff.
As of April 29, a total of 1,728 persons have been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the country. Although 307 persons have been successfully treated and discharged, 51 deaths have been recorded.
Healthcare workers at risk
Healthcare workers are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 virus as they are the first responders to patients.
On April 4, Aliyu Yakubu, a medical doctor aged 60, died at the Nigeria Air Force Reference Hospital, Daura, Katsina State, after contracting the deadly virus. A week later, his wife and children tested positive for COVID-19.
Due to their vulnerability to this disease, health workers have been advised to take extra precautions in handling suspected cases.
Mr Ehanire noted that Personal Protective Equipment have been made available for health workers.
He also said health workers who cannot handle the COVID-19 pandemic have the option of leaving.
“It is important for healthcare workers to understand that nobody is forced or conscripted to handle the coronavirus.
“Those who cannot handle it have the option of requesting to be excused and someone else will come in.
“The pressure on health care workers if they have a crisis can be quite severe and I do think that mental health counselling can be extended to those who feel they are impacted in that way,” he said.
Following numerous complaint by health workers and their unions, the federal government announced its decision to give 5,000 front line health workers life insurance, which has been fully paid for by the Nigerian insurance industry.
“A special COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowance of 50 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary will also be paid to all health workers in Nigerian Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres (FMCs), and designated COVID-19 centres for the first three months in the first instance.
“40 cent of the Consolidated Basic Salary would be paid as special COVlD-19 Hazard and Inducement Allowance to health workers at special Non-Public Hospitals and clinics in the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for same three months’ period,” the minister of state for health, Olurunnimbe Mamora, said.
He also said 20 per cent of the Consolidated Basic Salary will be paid to all health workers directly managing COVlD-19 at the Infectious Diseases Hospitals (IDH) isolation and treatment centres.