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COVID-19: Garlands for medics, others for dogged fight against pandemic

By Guardian Nigeria
17 October 2021   |   4:03 am
After Akwa Ibom State confirmed its first five Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) cases on April 1, 2020, the state government, medical practitioners, as well as public-spirited organisations and individuals joined the rest of the country to wage a war against the lethal virus. And in the process of containing the major medical emergency, the state, which…

noyo being presented with the award by the National President of the NMA, Prof. Ujah, while the state chairman of the association, Dr. Udo watches.

After Akwa Ibom State confirmed its first five Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) cases on April 1, 2020, the state government, medical practitioners, as well as public-spirited organisations and individuals joined the rest of the country to wage a war against the lethal virus.

And in the process of containing the major medical emergency, the state, which has been one of the most proactive in the fight against the pestilence lost some medics and individuals to the scourge.

Even though the state and indeed the country is still experiencing the third wave of the virus propelled by Delta variant, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) recently deemed it fit to acknowledge those whose sacrifices made the difference in the war.

The 2021 Physician’s Week of the NMA provided the right atmosphere for medical practitioners in the state to stock-take, chart the way forward and honour deserving persons for volunteering to help humanity as first respondents in the fight against the scourge.

Among those garlanded and festooned with praises and awards were the Advisor, Inoyo Toro Foundation and the immediate past Executive Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil companies in Nigeria, Mr. Udom Uko Inoyo, and the state Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Mr. Umo Bassey Eno.

At the peak of the pandemic, the Inoyo Toro Foundation, in partnership with Stanbic IBTC Bank and IJNC International Limited, donated a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) 3 machine to the state.

Also, a total of 11, 000 units of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were donated to the state, by Concerned Akwa Ibom Professionals in Lagos (CAKPIL), an association that Inoyo currently coordinates.

Inoyo, who was honoured in recognition of his support towards improving healthcare delivery in the stated, told The Guardian that, “nothing gladdens the mind than being recognised by professionals, who used the equipment that he and his friends donated to the state to save the lives of its residents.”

The theme of this year’s National Physicians’ week is “Nigeria in the COVID-19 era: Health System Strengthening for National Security and Prosperity”

In his remarks while declaring open the event, Governor Udom Emmanuel, urged support for an improved healthcare delivery system from stakeholders across the country in view of the sector’s importance to the nation’s wellbeing.

Represented by his deputy, Mr. Moses Ekpo, Emmanuel eulogised medical practitioners for their contributions to the fight against COVID-19, and further stressed the need for all hands to be on deck to revamp the health sector.

Emmanuel reiterated his administration’s commitment to providing a business-friendly environment, which would facilitate its migration from za solely civil service state to an industrialised one with massive investment in infrastructure to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs).

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was a keynote speaker at the event, and also commissioned the reconstructed Ikot Ekpene General Hospital (Phase 1), commended Emmanuel for prioritising health care services in the state, a development he said was a key component of national security and welfare of the people.

While underscoring the importance of health to any nation, he called on the different levels of government to build enduring health facilities that would meet the health needs of the citizenry.

The President of the NMA, Prof. Innocent Ujah, called for an upward review of the N5, 000 physician’s monthly hazard allowance, as well as the establishment of a Bank of Health in the country.

“If there is a Bank of Agriculture to incentivise agro-businesses in the country, and a Bank of Industry to provide stimulus to industrial growth, there is no reason why Nigeria should not have a functional bank that supports the growth and development of the health sector,” Ujah noted.

Presenting the award, praised Inoyo and partners for the donation of the PPE units to medical workers and the PCR machine, which made the state one of the few with more than one of the device. He said: “If you go to Ibom Specialist Hospital, the PCR machine there was donated by Mr. Udom Inoyo and partners.”

In his speech, Inoyo said that from a patient’s perspective, last year recorded two remarkable events, following the outbreak of the pandemic. “The first was that the belly of our health system was extensively exposed, resulting especially with the rich and powerful, who are accustomed to medical tourism, looking inwards and scrambling to support the intervention efforts.” The second he said was the “superlative performance by our medical personnel across the spectrum, who worked long hours and sometimes, especially in the early days, without complete standard Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s).”

In saluting all the front-line workers and commiserating with them on the loss of their colleagues and other health workers, he stressed that that “overall, the pandemic allows us to pay adequate attention to our health sector and to fully fix it.

“Truth be told, there has been a systemic failure across the board, and for so long. We recognize that you have complained severally, gone on strike, adjusted where necessary, and like some colleagues, may have thought of, or are still thinking about abandoning the ship. But this is not the time to apportion blames, but rather, an opportunity for all stakeholders to row in the same direction. We must reset the clock and begin a journey of redemption for the general good.”

Sharing his thoughts on how appropriate application of human resource management can lead to health system strengthening in the country, Inoyo, a past President/Chairman of Council of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management in Nigeria (CIPM), said: “As medical practitioners, you are fully conversant with your fundamental responsibilities as enunciated in the Hippocratic oath. None would doubt that this oath also intended that there would be an all-around health system, which delivers preventive, promotive, curative, and rehabilitative interventions through a combination of public health actions. Sadly, this is not the case today in our country. So, how do you respond when the threshold set by the government, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), to strengthen health systems is not in place? I am sure you are familiar with the WHO recommended six components of service delivery, health workforce, health information systems, access to essential medicines, financing, leadership, and governance? And who do you think is responsible for actioning these items?”

To achieve good human resources management and health system strengthening in Nigeria, you as health managers must focus on delivering health benefits to everyone, especially the most vulnerable. And to effectively do so, you must understand the interplay of human resources in this process.”

He called on leadership to embrace open and honest communication, adding that given the shortfall in human resources, task shifting, which involves the rational redistribution of tasks among health workforce teams is recommended.

While specifically noting that health, wellness and safety are important as they promote a culture of care, he added that compensation and benefits must reflect the market and be transparently determined, even as appropriate work tools are necessary to drive motivation and increase productivity. In this era of technology, our facilities must be able to offer specific services like MRI, CT scan, CAT lab, stroke units, transplant units, etc.

In conclusion, he said, “despite how challenging the situation may be, you must continue to take pride in the profession and remain committed to the fundamentals of the Hippocratic Oath. You must re-skill yourself. No matter how difficult, please read and stay abreast of new developments in medicine and do not rely only on past knowledge/experiences. Any misdiagnosis further erodes the confidence of your patients.”