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NMA confirms death of 16 doctors, warns of COVID-19 spike

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Former Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Oyo State branch, Dr. Akin Sodipo (left); Vice Chairman, Dr. Wale Lasisi, and Chairman, Dr. Ayotunde Fasunla, at a press briefing marking the 2020 Physicians’ Week in Ibadan…yesterday. PHOTO: NAJEEM RAHEEM.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) yesterday confirmed that COVID-19 killed 16 doctors, with 321 infected by the virus while treating patients.

President, NMA, Prof. Innocent Ujah, confirmed this at a press conference to mark the 2020 Physicians’ Week in Lagos yesterday.

“As of October 8, 2020, there were 1,031 doctors who were exposed to the virus in Nigeria and 321 confirmed cases. Sadly, 16 of our members were painfully lost in the battle to save the lives of Nigerians, with mortality rate of 4.98 per cent,” he said.

According to him, marking this year’s Physicians’ Week calls for sober reflection, considering the current realities of the pandemic and its attendant consequences.

He said COVID-19 had revealed acute shortages of critical and lifesaving equipment such as ventilators and intensive care beds in hospitals nationwide, adding that shortages of medical capacity had further put a spotlight on the poor state of the Nigerian health sector.

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The NMA President called for increased government funding for healthcare and mandatory health insurance plan to make Nigeria to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

According him, government should establish a health bank and intensify Public-Private Policy (PPP) to provide accessible and affordable healthcare for the people.

The NMA chief added that the health sector was grossly under-funded, stating that the programme was to celebrate doctors who are contributing to effective health service delivery and health research in Nigeria.

He urged government to urgently implement an upward review of the hazard allowance paid to doctors and other frontline health workers in public service.

According to him, the programme provides the body the opportunity to review happenings in the health sector in the past 12 months.

He urged government to strengthen service delivery, health workforce and health information systems as well as improving access to essential medicines.

He urged all levels of government to invest in healthcare systems.

Ujah noted that the health systems face inadequate emergency preparedness and response due to inadequate human resources, infrastructural deficit and medical consumables.

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According to him, Nigeria must honour the constitution and the international human rights treaties the country had ratified that guarantee right to health.

He said the right to health includes ensuring availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health care goods, facilities, and services.

Ujah appealed to Nigerians to continue to maintain COVID-19 guidelines to prevent a second wave of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the NMA yesterday warned of a possible second wave of COVID-19 in the country following the ongoing #EndSARS protests.

Addressing a press conference on Physicians’ Week in Ibadan, the Chairman of the Oyo State branch of the body, Ayotunde Fatunla, said the protesters had been violating COVID-19 safety protocols.

Fatunla said: “We should know that gathering together could worsen the pandemic which we have worked tirelessly to bring down. We advise the protesters to observe the laid down protocols. Many frontline health workers had lost their families while some have lost their lives while preventing others from dying of COVID-19.

“Having achieved some success, we don’t want a relapse. That is why we want to encourage them that while trying to let government know their grievances, they should as much as possible observe the protocols so that we don’t have a second wave that would lead us into a second lockdown. We cannot afford another lockdown in Nigeria and this is the reason for our advice.”

Asked whether hospitals in the state had been recording COVID-19 cases following the protests, he said there were no statistics to show.

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Also, President, NMA, Prof. Innocent Ujah, appealed to the Nigerians to continue to maintain COVID-19 guidelines to prevent a second wave of the pandemic.
Also yesterday, the Federal Government blamed rising COVID-19 cases in the country on the #EndSARS protests.

Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, who spoke in Abuja, said a total of 25,699 samples were earlier collected for testing compared to the 18,597 the previous week.

He emphasised the need for every Nigerian to comply with the COVID-19 safety protocols, including wearing face masks, social distancing and use of hand sanitisers.

The SGF called for vigilance since all civil servants had return to work for the first time since March.

Mustapha appealed to the protesters to embrace to dialogue, saying the country could not afford to lose momentum and risk a second wave of the pandemic.

The PTF boss said the body had accelerated plans for the national testing week, adding that government would continue to monitor developments in all areas of the economy that had reopened and where new mass gathering events are taking place over the next three weeks.

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