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Again, NMA raises concern of possible COVID-19 deaths in Cross River

By Agosi Todo, Calabar
22 May 2020   |   6:06 pm
Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Cross River chapter has again raised concern over possible deaths caused by COVID-19 in the state.

Coronavirus PHOTO: Getty Images

Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Cross River chapter has again raised concern over possible deaths caused by COVID-19 in the state.

The association raised the concern yesterday in Calabar in a press statement signed by its Chairman Dr Agam Ayurk and the Secretary, Dr Ezoke Epoke, noting that it has received several reports from the Surveillance and Epidemiology unit that delay in some post-mortem sample collections has led to the rising number of death of suspected cases of COVID-19 in the state.

In view of this, the association called for rapid response and urgent transportation of samples within 24 hours of the collection with daily situation reports avoiding fake news or anxiety.

The statement read, “The Association has received several reports of delayed response by the State
Surveillance and Epidemiology unit to calls for patient review and sample collection. In some cases, delays have led to a post-mortem sample collection.

“We call for rapid response and urgent transportation of samples within 24hours of the collection with daily situation report (SITREP) made available to the public to avoid fake news and allay fears and anxiety. The quick response time has become more imperative due to the rising number of deaths from suspected cases in the State, the most recent being a health worker.”

NMA who regretted losing one of their health workers over this said, it has become worrisome that the COVID-19 testing breakdown by states as at May 17, 2020, revealed that Cross River has carried out only seven tests.

They wondered why out of the eight samples recorded on the 21 of May 2020, seven was from University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) as they asked what happened to other health facilities where patients may have had possible symptoms.

“This figure is very worrisome leading to the affirmation by the Director-General NCDC that; “no matter how intensive preventive measures are, there is no way to assess a State’s success or failure in managing COVID-19 without more testing to estimate disease burden”. He highlighted the need to intensify COVID-19 testing in Nigeria.

“The unacceptable low number of persons tested in Cross River State suggests a lack of diligent, expansive and coordinated surveillance response which is the hallmark for effective prevention and containment of COVID-19. We appeal for an expansion of the surveillance unit with the provision of more field staff, utility vehicles, ICT/technical support to enable this vital unit to carry out the critical role of early case finding for testing and isolation of confirmed cases to limit community transmission.

“As of May 21, 2020, information available to us has it that seven (7) out of the eight (8) samples collected so far are from the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar (UCTH). Many questions are begging for answers; Is it only UCTH that has patients that meet the criteria for sample collection? What happened to patients who may have visited the various Primary Health Care Facilities, General Hospitals and Private Hospitals across the State that may have satisfied the criteria for testing? Very worrisome is the fact that most members of the medical community are currently expressing concerns if the samples collected are the samples sent to NCDC. We call on the State COVID-19 task force to create a transparent system for tracking of samples from the point of collection to Testing Centre to restore confidence on the eventual results reported.

“The Cross River State Government currently has no listed NCDC designated Molecular Laboratory Testing Centre in progress or completed on the NCDC Molecular Laboratory Network. To make matters worse, the NCDC Laboratory catchment for coronavirus testing for Cross River State is at Irrua, Edo State. Irrua is about 447.9km (7h 50min) from Calabar when compared to Abakaliki, Ebonyi State another testing centre that is 188.9km (3h 17min) from Calabar which also shares a boundary with Cross River State. The present situation makes sample transportation very expensive and cumbersome occasioned by restrictions in interstate movement. We use this medium to call on NCDC to change the testing centre of Cross River State from Irrua to Abakaliki. We once again implore the State COVID-19 task force to expedite plans in collaboration with NCDC to fully accredit Dr Lawrence Memorial Hospital which is a Bio-Safety Level Three (BSL-3) laboratory and UCTH, Calabar for COVID-19 testing.” MNA appealed.

The association, however, commended the state government and its COVID-19 Taskforce for it efforts towards setting up the 100-bed Adiabo Isolation Centre in the State Capital and early implementation of the compulsory use of face mask.

But the association said it has observed that the enforcement of this policy is predominantly in Calabar among motorists and passengers of motor vehicles, as pedestrians are allowed to move freely either without face masks or the face masks hanging around the neck.

They called for more efforts to facilitate the completion of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and to support the creation of Isolation Unit in General Hospital Ogoja.

The Association called for caution with the resumption of public worship centres in the State from May 24, 2020. “Our concern is that the order stipulates the number of worshippers to be limited to the sitting capacity of the church/mosque. The usual sitting capacity of most worship centres does not allow for the physical distancing of at least one metre that reduces the risk of droplet transmission of COVID-19. We advise that this policy should be reviewed, taking into cognizance physical distancing and local peculiarities of various worship centres.” The statement further read.