The real reasons hundreds of Nigerian doctors and nurses are now absconding from hospitals and other health facilities in the country have been revealed.
The issue which affects both public and private hospitals workers is worsening the fatalities associated with the coronavirus pandemic and it is centered on the near absence of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will shield them from contracting the ravaging COVID-19, reports Daily Trust.
PPE comprised of face shields, gloves, goggles and glasses, gowns, head covers, masks, respirators (in some cases) and shoe covers, and since they are not readily available, doctors and nurses are absconding.
The Nigeria Health Work Force Country Profile 2018, launched in February this year, revealed that the number of medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) stands at 74,543, meaning there is only one doctor to 2,753 patients in the country. The coronavirus caught many countries unawares, including Nigeria where federal and state government hospitals lack enough equipment to address large scale emergencies.
Although there has been some progress at all levels in upgrading facilities to deal with COVID-19 and other diseases through special intervention by the federal government, support from local and international donors, PPE remains grossly inadequate, subjecting health workers to infections while many patients lost their lives for lack of care.
On the one hand, teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres (FMCs) have been overwhelmed by patients suffering from various ailments amidst lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, medical personnel are battling to cope with the challenge and many contracted the deadly disease in the process. It is a big dilemma hence many doctors are absconding from hospitals, the same with other healthcare workers.
There are 22 FMCs in the country and when approached to comment on equipping their staff to be in the right frame of mind to attend to patients, most of the officials said they provided enough PPE to their doctors, nurses and other workers. Spokesmen for teaching hospitals and FMCs in Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Lagos and others spoke in the same tone, saying they have enough PPE for their workers. This is however in contrast to what the health workers in the states said. According to them, there was a need for a new approach to protecting them.
One of the health workers at one of the hospital in Lagos, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent that they only get new N95 from the management when the old face mask is torn or damaged. She said some used theirs for weeks, adding, “no matter the quality of the mask, it is obvious it will be contaminated.” “But the management said there is nothing wrong in using the mask again and again,” she lamented.
Findings reveal that many public hospitals only attend to “extremely emergency cases” while private clinics in some states have closed their doors for all categories of patients, all in an effort to protect their staff from contracting the coronavirus.
Dr. Ali, a medical doctor who consults in public and private hospitals in Abuja and some states said this is the most trying moments for them, doctors are absconding because they cannot take the risks;
“We all love our patients and we are passionate about treating them but not at the detriment of our welfare, our safety, and the security of our families,” he said.
“We can only work when we are secured and honestly we are getting overwhelmed.
“We took the decision of reducing the number of patients we attend to, and in some instances not attending to them at all because the PPE that we supposed to use all the time, which are mostly disposable, are not going round the way they should.
“Sometimes, very few health givers have access to the PPE and considering the rate at which community transmission is increasing, every patient is a potential carrier and you will not just go and attend to him without protection.
“Of course, the federal government has done a lot in providing the PPE but they are not enough. Every hospital should have them irrespective of whether that facility has been designated to attend to COVID-19 patients or not.
“So, yes, it is true that our colleagues are being circumspect; I don’t want to say they are avoiding patients but every one of us would love to stay away until we have protection garments,” he said.
Absconding from hospitals
A doctor at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), who preferred anonymity, confirmed that he and many of his colleagues stopped going to work due to lack of protective gears, and that many of his colleagues tested positive for COVID-19, while the results of others are still pending.
“The worst part of the whole issue is that one of our colleagues who was infected by the disease has transmitted it to her mother.”
“We decided to desert our place of work because we have complained severally to the management of the hospital regarding the shortage of working facilities, but no response.
“In the last two weeks, we have lost 41 patients and most of us had to go for test…We have to step back since last week Wednesday.
“It is not a strike, but we will not resume work until all our demands are met by the management of the hospital,” he said.
Another doctor said, “Our lives are at risk; so also that of our families and the patients we are attending to. We thank God the management of the hospital has started responding to our calls because we have started witnessing changes.
“However, we will still not resume until the results of our colleagues are ready so that we will decide who is to resume work and who is to be isolated.
“The management of the hospital should provide a hotel where doctors would be kept for 14 days upon completion of their 2-week duty.
“Any doctor that worked for two weeks should be isolated for two weeks before he even go to his family.
“This has been the practice in Abuja and it works perfectly.
“If you work for two weeks, you will be isolated for two weeks before you go to your home and later report to your duty post again,” he said.
Another doctor said, “We are not admitting patients again because many of our colleagues have tested positive for coronavirus.
“It is the same thing at Dala Hospital. Out of the 25 doctors that underwent the test, 15 tested positive. We are sitting on a time bomb, wallahi”.
He said AKTH had introduced telemedicine in which the mobile phone numbers of HODs of Specialist Departments have been released to the public for consultation for non-emergency conditions.
“But we still continue attending to emergency cases. The medicine side of Accident and Emergency was closed for fumigation, but surgery and other departments in A and E are working. We carried out an operation on a patient recently,” he said.
The story of doctors and nurses are absconding from hospitals are therefore, not only legion but legitimate.