Francis Ezem

Ahead of the expected end of the 14 days of isolation for the 18 health personnel comprising 15 medical doctors and three technical experts imported by the Federal Government from China, the Nigerian Medical Association NMA has warned that it would neither allow any physical contact with its members nor its patients.

Recall that the group had vehemently opposed the invitation to the Chinese medical team by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 headed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Boss Mustafa to assist in the fight against the pandemic, insisting that the indigenous medical experts, who had since the outbreak of the virus put their lives on the line are also capable of handling the situation.

President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, who spoke in Lagos, Wednesday, also chided the Lagos State Government over the recent approval of an increase in doctors’ hazard allowance from N5, 000 to N25, 000 per month, said though the gesture was appreciated, it is like a little drop of water in a mighty ocean, considering what is obtained even in neighbouring African countries.

According to him, NMA before the arrival of the Chinese medical team insisted that the medical doctors on ground have the capacity to handle the pandemic but that the government insisted they were only coming to share information and install their equipment, insisting that the association will allow them do just that.

“We are not opposed to information sharing but we insist we do not want to see them and we do not want them to have any physical contact with our patients. So they can share whatever information they have with us through the various available Information Communication Technology ICT platforms because we will insist on not having any physical contact with them and we have told the government this”, he said.

The President, who spoke on a morning programme on Rainbow FM, also disclosed that though the association appreciates the gesture by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu -led Government of Lagos State in increasing the hazard allowance, he however said it was not excited because the association never sat with the government to discuss the increment of the allowance nor was its input sought on the current realities in the field across the African continent

He said: “I am not aware of any meeting with Lagos State Government on the issue of increasing the hazard allowance for doctors. Even at the new rate of N25, 000 per month, we are still grossly under paid, given what is obtained in other climes including African countries.

“Available statistics show that at the current exchange rate of about N3600 to the US dollar, the N25, 000 translates to $61 per month. Compare this to the over $254 paid in Ghana and over $850 paid in Liberia. So you could see that we are grossly under paid and really nothing to cheer about the increment, which we were not, allowed discussing or negotiating”.

On the drugs administered on those persons infected by the virus, he disclosed that the fatality rate of the novel virus is five per cent, which implies that out of every 100 persons that test positive to the virus, 95 of them have the chances of surviving, adding that what the doctors do is to treat whatever the virus manifests in the infected persons, for instance cough or malaria so that they do not degenerate into something that could lead to the death of the patient.

While fielding questions on expectations that the Federal Government might relax the lockdown next week after the expiration of the 28 days, he warned that the consequences of such a decision might be catastrophic, given the already high mortality rate in the country, noting that there are still serious gaps in Nigeria’s health infrastructure, which is incapable of handling any massive outbreak.

He insisted that while the lockdown is sustained to stem the current community spread of the virus, other approaches should also be introduced even as the government steps up the distribution of the palliatives, arguing that the failure of the government and its agencies to effectively give palliates to citizens accounts for while the citizens could not observe the one-month lockdown to stem the spread of the virus in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Abuja.