As with many other countries, Nigeria is struggling to contain the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which by Friday morning has infected 190 persons and killed two in the country.
The virus has infected over a million people with more than 50,000 dead across the world. In many nations, the authorities have ordered people to stay at home to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the only safeguard against the virus at the moment is that people “stay at home”. Hence, markets, shops, offices, places of worship and entertainment are deserted.
While many people can afford to stay home, this is not the same with health workers in isolation centres providing care for confirmed cases.
This newspaper spoke with some nurses and midwives working at isolation centres across Nigeria’s affected states.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday, the chairperson of the association of nurses and midwives at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Samuel Adeyemi, said the caregivers face many challenges at the centres.
“While health workers risk their lives for the public good, there is no provision for remuneration or any encouragement from government,” Mr Adeyemi said.
He said for its members to work effectively, the union has demanded five things from the Oyo State government.
“We told the state government that for any nurse or midwife to work in the isolation centre in the state, there must be life insurance for them. The health workers must also be tested in such a way that we know their status. They must also be provided with adequate accommodation with their feeding being taken care of close to the isolation centre,” he said.
“The government must also make available packages such as upfront payment and lastly, nurses attending to those tested positive must be trained. It is sad that the state government is reluctant on these demands. Failure of government to meet these demands means nurses and midwives at isolation centres are there at their own risk. This is like a war and only health workers can fight the battle. A serious government must meet their demands.”
The chairman of the association at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Hospital in Osun, Adegoke Omobola, said the isolation centre in Osun is at the State Specialist Hospital in Asubiaro and health workers have been sent there to work.
While she commended the state government for taking proactive measures to curb the spread of the disease, she said the efforts are not yet enough.
“Nurses must be in good frame of mind before taking care of infected persons. Health workers don’t have insurance.
“Aside this, the Osun State government neglected representatives of nurses from being part of the technical aide committee looking at the virus. When nurses in isolation centres know that they are duly represented, they will be glad to do more.”
Blessing Israel, who works in Lagos, the state with the highest number of confirmed cases, said: “As I speak to you, I’m coming from the Lagos isolation centre in Mainland. While we care for the patients, nobody cares for us. Despite being the backbone of the health sector in this period, there is nothing like welfare package or insurance for us”.
Ms Israel, however, told our correspondent that the state government had promised to attend to their cries.
“We have made our demands known to the Lagos State commissioner for health who promised to do something. Nurses who don’t have a place to put their heads as at the time I’m speaking with you now have been lodged in a hotel close to the isolation centre. But despite our commitment, nobody cares about what we eat.”
In Ogun State, Roseline Solarin, head of nurses in the state, also said they have made their demands known to the government.
“We have three isolation centres in the state and we’ve told government that except Private Protective Equipment (PPE) are provided, work will be affected. Aside this, we don’t have issues in the state.”
In Bauchi State, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the state has no equipment at the isolation centres.
“No equipment at the isolation centres at all. We have just three confirmed cases, the governor, his friend and also a commissioner. These three people are in undisclosed isolation centres”, Ibrahim Maikudi, leader of nurses and midwives in the state, said.
Ezekiel Omeh, head of nurses in Enugu, however, said he had not received any complaint from members of his union working in isolation centres.
Non-inclusion in task force
The President of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Abdulrafiu Adeniji, while speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, accused the federal government of not bringing stakeholders together to fight coronavirus effectively.
“The federal government has not learnt from their past misdeeds and there is no adequate engagement in the efforts to combat the Covid 19. This is just a replica of the general health care management style in Nigeria that has not allowed Nigeria’s health sector to succeed.
“The key stakeholders are not being involved at all levels of healthcare administration and management. This cuts across the tiers of governance in Nigeria. If there is any exception, it might just be few.
“We are not duly and adequately represented on major committees. What is existing now is just like window dressing and anything done like this is never sustainable, therefore it leaves much to be desired. It amounts to lopsidedness, marginalisation and ineffectiveness in our policy formulation, and administration of health care services in Nigeria.
“Even before the outbreak of this pandemic, we had always called on government to institute life insurance for nurses and midwives as well as other health workers. Such insurance scheme will aid the professionals to perform optimally and with job satisfaction with all sense of security. But up to the time of the outbreak of the pandemic, it has not been acceded to.”