Olalekan Adetayo, Friday Olokor, Ade Adesomoju, Deji Lambo, Matthew Ochei, James Abraham, and Gbenga Odogun
The Federal Government, on Thursday, stated that it was disturbed by increasing rejection of patients by hospitals, saying medical directors would be held responsible for the laxity.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who stated this during a meeting involving the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Capital Territory Administration and medical directors in the FCT, also lamented that hospitals were delaying testing of COVID-19 patients, leading to increasing coronavirus deaths.
Also, at its press briefing on Thursday, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 urged state governments to prepare for the worst because of the rise in the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.
The PUNCH had, last month, reported that there had been a surge in COVID-19 cases following the delay by hospitals in releasing test results.
An Ibadan-based businessman, Mr. Omololu Akinyosoye, who lost a friend to COVID-19, told The PUNCH that he was tested at the Jericho Specialist Hospital, Ibadan, on June 17 and told to come back for the result in two weeks.
Also, many hospitals have been abandoning patients. For example, On May 7, The PUNCH reported that a man, Wisdom Akpan, accused the health workers of a primary health centre in the Joju area of Sango in the Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State, of denying his sister, Rose, treatment till she collapsed and died in front of the hospital.
Attend to emergency cases on stretchers, if there are no bed spaces, minister tells hospitals
Warning heads of hospitals on Thursday, the ministers said, “No emergency should be denied attention, even if it means admitting on a stretcher or an examination couch to give lifesaving oxygen. I appeal to all medical directors, who we have specifically invited here today for this message, that we shall hold each personally accountable for the outcomes emanating from your hospitals.
“You are to kindly ensure that patients are attended to with dignity and dispatch, in the spirit in which the Honourable Minister of the FCT and I have spoken.
“I understand that health workers are rightfully concerned about their safety in COVID-19 pandemic. So, we have provided the PPE (personal protective equipment), training and an infection prevention and control protocols for doctors and nurses to discharge their duties safely, without risks to themselves.”
He also lamented that many COVID-19 patients had died while awaiting the results of their tests for the virus
The minister stated, “I have also been informed that many patients are left unattended to after admission, or even die, while waiting for the result of their COVID-19 or other tests, which sometimes take as long as three to six- days to be released.
“We, in the healthcare sector cannot, afford negative impact on our sector and must be mindful of the collateral damage that can befall us, wipe out disease control gains we have made in the past decades and threaten our not so strong health system.
“Efforts to control COVID-19 must not be at the expense of allowing other diseases that are equally life-threatening to begin to thrive and increase mortalities. It would be a serious setback, if medical services, especially emergency medical service, begin to deteriorate in the wake of fighting COVID-19.
“There are places today, where we suspect that needless mortalities from other diseases have overtaken the threat of COVID – 19. We are beginning to see that fear of or focus on coronavirus is making some health institutions lose sight of other health hazards in our communities.”
While stressing that the government was deeply worried that health practitioners were neglecting their patients mainly for fear of contracting coronavirus, Ehanire said he had also directed that basic diagnostic laboratories be set up at the emergency centres of major hospitals.
He said, “I have directed that side labs for GeneXpert COVID – 19 diagnostic machines, which deliver results within one hour, should be deployed and activated at the National Hospital Abuja and the UATH (University of Abuja Teaching Hospital) in Gwagwalada. I also directed that basic diagnostic side labs be set up at the emergency centres of major hospitals.
“I am talking of the frequency of reports of very sick persons being rejected and abandoned by our hospitals. Many have died having been denied attention in hospitals, or told there is no bed, often after they have made marathon journeys from one hospital to the other in search of help.
“This is not acceptable, we cannot afford to continue to lose so many of our people, who have in fact found their way to a hospital, only to lose their lives to health conditions, some of which could have been cured.”
At the PTF briefing, Ehanire said states must beef up their battles against COVID-19.
As of Wednesday, Nigeria had recorded 26,484 cases and 603 deaths caused by the virus, while 10,152 patients had been successfully treated and discharged.
Ehanire called on state governments to continue to prepare more bed spaces, adding the cases would rise with increased testing.
He said, “We are urging state governments to prepare for the worst. This rising trend requires that each state of the federation to continue to prepare more bed spaces and increase sample collection sites, as well as improve logistics to deliver to designated laboratories promptly.
“It is also important to protect the vulnerable by putting in place measures which take care of their social needs and reduce their exposure to risks of infection.”
According to him, the rising number of cases is “a sign that COVID-19 is actually expanding faster than our systems are handing it.”
Ehanire also said COVID-19 positive persons, who did not show symptoms of the virus, would be admitted in hospitals, if they had conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, among others.
He stated, “The Federal Ministry of Health’s plan will be to focus more on minimising fatalities by prioritising pre-emptive admission to hospital for medical observation, for all persons who test positive for COVID-19 and meet our definition of vulnerability, even if they do not yet have classical symptoms.”
Ehanire said with the lifting of the ban on interstate travels, the assumption should not be that the COVID-19 danger was over.
The risks of being infected, he said, were higher during travels, advising Nigerians to avoid non-essential travels.
The chairman of the task force, Boss Mustapha, also said with the easing of restrictions, it was expected that there would be rise in cases.
He said, “One significant observation the PTF wishes to make is that new rise in cases are to be expected as nations start to ease restrictions.”