The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, and National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, yesterday took a swipe at the Federal Government over its plans to invite a team of 18 Chinese doctors into the country as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Meanwhile, statistics released by Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and the Lagos State Government at the weekend also indicate that there are 10 new cases of the virus, bringing the number of confirmed cases to a total of 224.

 The NMA and the NARD described the plan as illegal, having not considered the laws guiding medical practice in the country and an embarrassment to their members and health workers in the country, who have been risking their lives fighting the pandemic.

 According to separate statements issued by the two doctors’ bodies, the move will undermine the efforts made by the Nigerian health workers to bring the pandemic under control.

President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, who expressed dismay over government’s decision at this time of a global pandemic, said the lack of Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, grossly inadequate test kits and test centres across the country and the absolute lack of any form of insurance for the workforce were important issues begging for attention at this time not importing foreign doctors from China.

“It is a thing of embarrassment to the membership of the Association and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions, and a fragile health system to be subjected to the ignominy of not being carried along in arriving at such a decision. “It is a great disservice to the morale of the long-suffering frontline health workforce if the Government goes ahead to invite these Chinese doctors. The invitation demeans their sacrifices so far in this pandemic. “We are therefore profoundly dismayed to learn that the Federal Government is instead inviting the Chinese who are not out of the woods themselves. The spike in cases and the death toll from COVID-19 in Italy coincided with the arrival of the Chinese in the guise of offering assistance. Even the United Nations has only just recently commended the efforts of Nigeria so far”, Faduyile said.

He also expressed grave concerns that the government did not take into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act. This, according to him, is one such circumstance where the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should be consulted to grant necessary approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients.

“We expect the Government to show appreciation by channeling the available resources and donations to improving testing facilities to detect more cases and ramp up capacity to train more workers,” he said.

He however disclosed that NMA was aware of a large pool of general medical and specialist practitioners who were either unemployed or underemployed that could be engaged, instead of bringing foreigners who, aside from national security concerns, might not be conversant with Nigeria’s culture, terrain and peculiar challenges.

He said: “ The NMA believes that this invitation is ill-timed and of no overbearing significance considering that whatever experiences the Chinese have can be shared by digital technology through conferencing, bearing in mind that the DG of NCDC Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu had only just returned from China. “We are not averse to the donation of equipment and supplies because we can always do with such support as even the developed countries receive support”.

The body urged the Federal Government to review and approve better welfare incentives to the frontline medical personnel.

Meanwhile the NARD on its part, warned of the regrettable consequences of extending invitation to Chinese doctors by Nigeria’s government, citing the outbreak of coronavirus in the country. The resident doctors also warned that throwing the country’s international borders to the Chinese doctors was suicidal, accusing the government of championing illegality by its intention.

According to the president of NARD, Sokomba Aliyu: “We find it rather curious that our government would contemplate to throw open her international borders to Chinese nationals having watched how similar action in Italy proved socio-economically suicidal.

“The crafty Chinese scientists should be the last group of friends to trust at this time, given how unreliably and covertly they have managed the information around the pandemic beginning from the data around its origin, characteristics, and other virulence features to help the nations yet to experience the surge to be better prepared. “We should not lose sight of the fact that conspiracy theories have it that COVID-19 is a possible tool for both sociopolitical and economic manipulation and domination. “Nigeria is too important on the African continent to act any carelessly in the face of this emerging but portent threat to human existence.

“The attempt to import human resources for health (purposes) from China into Nigeria where many qualified medical doctors and other cadres of health workers are yet to be gainfully employed is the height of insensitivity and disservice on the part of the Federal Government and their advisers. “The challenge at hand would have been sufficient marker to agitate the FG in the direction and timing for massive employment of medical and other health care workers to provide enough hands in the industry to battle the COVID-19 as other nations are doing. Some countries even went ahead to accelerate the graduation of their final year medical students. “They did not turn to China. If the FG had completely employed the available qualified doctors and other healthcare workers before turning to China for medical manpower to fill any persisting gap; it would have being less suspicious.

“We condemn this planned importation of Chinese doctors into Nigeria by the Federal Ministry of Health to fight COVID-19. “We also wish to holistically cross-examine the intent and purpose of the importation of 18-man Chinese team of medical experts including doctors, nurses and those with sundry expertise to assist Nigeria in the fight against COVID-19.

“The NARD is indeed puzzled that the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health would be contemplating such an adventure without firstly discussing it with the key and relevant stakeholders like the Nigerian Medical Association; our parent body; and all her relevant affiliates that parade some of the world’s best hands in all fields of endeavour”.

The association also argued that the Federal Government cannot be championing illegality, adding that all doctors coming into Nigeria are supposed to be licensed by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria and that these ones are not.

The statement also said: “Nigeria is about one fifth of the population of the African continent and currently the world has watched with awe, the very slow rate of case fatality arising from COVID-19 in Africa and is yet to understand, explain, covet or undermine that possible genetic advantage,” it noted. “The Nigerian medical experts are currently winning the COVID-19 battle and should be encouraged and motivated and supported to win the war instead of distracting them with this unfortunate plan. “The news making rounds in some quarters have it that the Chinese experts are only coming to Nigeria to play only some advisory roles and not to directly intervene in the day-to-day handling of Nigerian patients. This does not appear believable because telemedicine should have been more cost-effective, faster and easier to harness over a large number of uses than to fly them into Nigeria and move them from place to place at a huge cost to our national budget.

“NARD advises the Federal Government to stop implementation of the plan and rather, immediately engage all key relevant Nigerian medical experts including NARD and present the full intents and purpose of the planned importation of Chinese experts for full evaluation, cost-benefit analysis and consensus on the best option.”