No fewer than 5,000 frontline health workers have been given life insurance by the Nigerian insurance industry, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, has said.
Mr Mustapha, while speaking at the daily Presidential Task Force (PTF) of COVID-19 briefing on Friday said the premium for the insurance has been fully paid in line with the principle of No Premium, No Cover.
He said a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was already signed by the Ministry of Health and key players, to make special allowances and incentives available for health workers.
”The Federal Ministry of Health working in conjunction with other MDAs and the health sector professional bodies have signed an MOU for various allowances and other incentives.
“In addition to what the Federal Government is doing, the insurance industry has responded massively to the call for support.
”The PTF has received the Life Insurance cover to the frontline workers on COVID-19 for a maximum of 5000 health workers who are employed to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
”The premium in the sum of N112,500,000 for the cover has been fully paid by the Nigerian Insurance Industry in line with the principle of No Premium, No Cover,” he said.
Despite risks associated with their profession, there have been numerous complaints of poor remuneration and welfare of health workers in Nigeria.
The minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, was recently in the news for the wrong reasons when he said he was “not aware if health workers are being paid hazard allowance for the job that they are doing” in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Ehanire added that whether during a pandemic or not, handling emergencies is a “standard job they (health workers) do every day.”
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.
Just yesterday, the health minister announced that about 40 health workers in Nigeria have so far, tested positive for COVID-19.
He 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.”
Due to their vulnerability to this disease, health workers have been advised to take extra precautions in handling suspected cases.
No life insurance
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how nurses and midwives taking care of COVID-19 patients said they had no life insurance and were not receiving any special hazard allowance different from that embedded in their salaries.
An entry level federal doctor or dentist earns an annual consolidated earning of about ₦1.7 million ($4,722), rising to ₦8.5 million ($23,611) for the highest grade, as stipulated in the 2019 Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS).
Of this, hazard allowance is ₦60,000 ($167) per annum for medical workers at all grades, said Olanrewaju Amusat, Executive Director of SmileBuilders Initiative.
As for nurses, midwives and other health workers, their total annual entry earning is ₦360,000 ($1000), rising to ₦3.2 million ($8,889) for the highest grade, as contained in the 2019 Consolidated Health Salary Structure.
In contrast, the annual take home pay of each member of the House of Representatives in basic salaries and allowances is ₦17 million ($47,222) — enough to pay at least 10 entry level doctors.
For senators, it is ₦24 million ($66,667) — enough to pay at least 14 entry level doctors. Yet, the lawmakers have maintained that they are underpaid.
For regional comparison, a 2017 report by Africa Check showed that in South Africa, a full time intern earns US$2,760 monthly, seven times more than Nigeria’s.
Also, a June 2017 deal signed by Kenyan doctors offered the lowest paid among them a gross monthly pay of KSh212,989 (US$2,000 — 5 times Nigeria’s).
Meanwhile, Mr Ehanire noted that COVID-19 ‘starter packs’ have been deployed to all tertiary institutions and Federal Medical Centres to further complement the medical consumables earlier sent to each state.
He said ”the starter packs consist of medical consumables and disposables, to ensure that our frontline healthcare workers are protected.”
He urged health workers to remain vigilant in the line of duty and maintain a “high index of suspicion for COVID-19.”
As of 23rd April 2020, 981 people in 25 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have been confirmed to have COVID-19.
While 197 persons have been successfully treated and discharged, 31 deaths have been recorded in the country.
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