Ebola: health workers scared, flee hospital – Punch

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Afraid of contracting the Ebola virus, health workers at the Yaba Mainland Hospital, Lagos have been running away from patients isolated in the hospital, thus putting intense pressure on the few ones still treating victims.

Impeccable sources at the hospital told Saturday PUNCH that health workers in the hospital were also being pressured by family members to resign their appointments with the establishment.

Some of them are already avoiding the patients like a plague. As a result of this development, hospital sources said the few health workers available have been working for 24 hours in order to take care of patients in the isolated area.

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, told some of our correspondents in Lagos on Wednesday that people in the isolation ward could die if they were not well managed, adding that government needed more hands.

Identifying lack of adequate health officials as a major challenge to containing the spread of the virus, he said, “Because of the fear of Ebola, everybody seems to be scared, nobody wants to assist, which is a major challenge.

“It is even more so for the treatment isolation ward. It’s a major problem because a lot of people ran away, especially when the nurse died.”

One of the senior medical practitioners in the hospital confided in one of our correspondents that his family members who currently reside abroad had been putting pressure on him to resign his appointment to prevent him from contracting the deadly virus.

He also said that the doctors’ strike had been putting pressure on the available personnel to work more than the mandatory eight hours.

He said, “The pressure is too much for us; we have been working for 24 hours instead of the statutory eight hours because of inadequate manpower as a result of the ongoing doctors’ strike and other health workers that have been reluctant to move near the patients.”

He said, “We have been relying on volunteers who have been helping us to carry out some of our responsibilities here. Our family members too have been panicking and putting pressure on us as a result of our insistence to continue to manage the carriers of Ebola virus; they are nursing the fear that we may contract the disease as many of them have insisted that we resign our appointments.

“One major aspect of the issue is the stigmatisation. Our neighbours have also been stigmatising us; they believe that because of the fact that Ebola patients are being managed here, they think we might have contracted the virus.”

He said the efforts to prevent the spread would have been completely defeated if not for some volunteers who had been assisting in managing those infected with the Ebola virus.

The senior health worker, who likened the challenge to a war situation in which reserved soldiers were mobilised to participate in fierce battle, said that it would require effective and co-ordinated effort to manage the patients as well as prevent the spread of the virus.

The senior health worker, however, recalled that some hospitals had been misdiagnosing patients suffering from severe malarial as contracting Ebola virus.

He particularly mentioned the case of a malarial patient who was referred to the Mainland Hospital by another hospital on the suspicion that he had contracted the Ebola virus.

He said, “Immediately the malaria patient was brought here on the suspicion that he had contracted Ebola virus, we treated him for three hours after which he requested for eba (Garri). The following day, the boy ate rice and plantain before we discharged him.”

Though he said the Lagos State Government had provided every necessary support to prevent the outbreak of the virus, one of our correspondents noticed that water was still a major problem at the Mainland Hospital as some junior workers were seen during a visit to the hospital carrying buckets filled with water from one location to another.

The workers were also seen wearing protective face masks.

The Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association and the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, last Sunday, accused the Federal Government of not being proactive enough in the fight against the virus.

They said the government had yet to put in place adequate measures to protect health workers willing to manage those infected.

The state NMA Chairman, Dr. Tope Ojo, asked the federal and Lagos State governments to provide protective kits and address the issue of hazard allowance for doctors, nurses and other health workers willing to be involved in treating infected persons.

He had said, “You don’t just dangle life insurance without documents. We cannot endanger our lives unless we know what is at stake. We should be assured that should anything happen to us, our families are catered for.”

The NMA Secretary-General, Dr. Adewunmi Alayaki, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH in Abuja on Wednesday, expressed concern about the delay in releasing details of the insurance policy the Federal Government health workers treating Ebola patients.

Alayaki said, “Government has promised to insure health workers taking care of the patients, but details have not been released. We are expecting details of the policy.”

Alayaki spoke just as residents of Kuje, a satellite town in Abuja, reiterated their opposition to the siting of Ebola treatment centre in the community.

Some youths have threatened to burn the centre if it is located in the community.

Assessing efforts to check the spread of the disease, Alayaki hailed the Federal and Lagos State governments, but asked them to ensure that doctors and other health workers treating Ebola patients were well protected.

A Sierra Leonean doctor, Sheik Umar Khan, was reported to have died, after contracting the disease, despite wearing a protective gear while treating Ebola patients.

The World Health Organisation recommends the use of personal protective equipment by health workers and caregivers attending to Ebola patients.

The disease can be transmitted through contact with blood and body fluids of infected individuals and with objects contaminated with the fluids.

Meanwhile, there is panic in Kuje following the decision of the government to manage Ebola patients at the Kuje General Hospital.

The Federal Capital Territory Administration had on Monday designated the male ward of the hospital as the isolation centre to manage Ebola cases in the city.

It also set up a technical committee on Ebola management headed by the FCTA Secretary for Health and Human Services, Dr. Demola Onakomaiya.

Investigations, however, indicated that health workers in the hospital feared that managing Ebola cases in the facility might expose them to the virus.

It was learnt that some youths had threatened to burn the facility, if the FCTA transferred Ebola patients to Kuje General Hospital.

Residents of the town, who spoke with one of our correspondents, described the decision to use the male ward of the hospital to manage Ebola patients as heartless.

Meanwhile, Oyo State has instituted 24-hour surveillance monitoring and tracking of suspected cases in all the 33 local government areas of the state.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin, said emphasis had been placed on the border regions of Saki West, Iwajowa, Atisbo and Itesiwaju council areas to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus into the state.

Pandemonium broke out last Sunday at Udo community in Ovia South-West Local Government Area of Edo State when a man suddenly slumped and died creating panic among residents that the man might have died of the Ebola virus disease.

But the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Louis Odion, said in a statement made available to journalists that examined samples from the man’s body showed that he died as a result of bleeding from peptic ulcer.

Odion said, “Specimens were taken from the body and taken to the Irrua Specialist Hospital.

“However, preliminary examinations revealed that the deceased died of bleeding from peptic ulcer.”

Despite the porous borders in Ogun State, the government has yet to be fully prepared for the prevention of the deadly virus as of the time of filing this report.

Isolation centres have yet to be identified. The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Olaokun Soyinka, told journalists during a press briefing on Ebola that the state was being careful in revealing the centres.

The protective equipment have yet to be deployed to health facilities, though they were said to have been delivered on Wednesday to the Permanent secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Daisi Odeniyi.

Reacting to the preventive measures put in place by the government, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Odeniyi, in an electronic message sent to our correspondent on Wednesday, stated that the personal protection equipment had been procured by the government.

But the Ekiti State Government set up a 30-man multi-ministerial committee as part of efforts at preventing as well as ensuring prompt diagnosis and management of possible identified cases of Ebola.

The committee raised by the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Olusola Fasubaa, comprises members from different relevant sectors.

Findings revealed that selected wards in three General Hospitals have been set up across the three senatorial districts in Ode, Ifaki and Okemesi. The state intends to screen corpses before being admitted into mortuaries.

But independent investigations revealed that standard personal protective equipment for health workers are still not available.

The state has also not met a request from the Nigerian Medical Association for the establishment of a centralised isolated camp for Ebola instead of designated wards in selected hospitals.

The state chairman of NMA, Dr. John Akinbote, in an interview with one of our correspondents, expressed dissatisfaction over the issue.

He said, “The appropriate standard personal protective equipment for health workers are not in Ekiti State.

“We need designated camps not hospital wards because this is a highly contagious disease.

“The camp will be burnt after eradicating the disease so that people will not have anything to do with it again. By the time you start using hospital wards, people will not want to go there for treatment of other ailments because of stigma.”

Akinbote, however, vowed that no doctor in the state would be allowed to risk his life by managing Ebola patients when the required equipment are not on ground.

The Kwara State Government has also taken a proactive measure by establishing Rapid Response and Emergency Preparedness committees as one of the strategies to check the spread of the virus.

The state Commissioner for Health, Alhaji Kayode Issah, said the committees had offices in all the local government areas of the state and were coordinated by the Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers.

Though there have not been reported cases of the virus in Kogi State, the government has designated the Specialist Hospital in Lokoja as an isolation centre in case of likely outbreak of the disease.

The Commissioner for Information, Hajia Zainab Okino, said the government took the step as a proactive strategy to prevent the disease.

President Goodluck Jonathan last week summoned a stakeholders’ emergency meeting on the virus after which he approved N1.9bn to implement a Special Intervention Plan aimed at curtailing further spread of the virus.

The money, according to the President, is to further strengthen ongoing steps to contain the virus such as the establishment of additional isolation centres, case management, contact tracing, deployment of additional personnel and screening.

Jonathan, however, asked school owners across the country to consider extending the current holiday until the Federal Government would have carried out a reassessment of the level of the threat posed by the virus.

Also asking religious organisations to discourage gatherings that may increase the spread of the virus, the President asked that movement of corpses from one community to the other or from overseas into Nigeria should be stopped forthwith.

He directed the Ministry of Health to work in collaboration with state Ministries of Health, the National Centre for Disease Control, the National Emergency Management Agency and other relevant agencies to ensure that all possible steps are taken to effectively contain the threat of the Ebola virus in line with international protocols and best practices.

Also during the week, the President summoned the 36 state governors and their health commissioners to an urgent meeting to hold on Wednesday over the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country.

He stated this at a conference organised by the Interfaith Initiative For Peace in Abuja early in the week shortly after the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said that Nigeria had recorded the 10th Ebola case.

The case involves a nurse who is one of the health workers that managed Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American in a Lagos hospital that brought the virus to Nigeria on July 20. Sawyer died on July 25.

The matron of the Lagos hospital died last week at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, where the seven other known Ebola cases are being managed.

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