The Lagos Medical Guild has urged the Federal and State governments to strengthen the country’s emergency preparedness plan against COVID-19 by incorporating more medical groups into its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).
The Chairman of the Guild, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, made the plea in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.
NAN reports that Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is a structure set up for the preparation, coordination, and management of response activities for public health events.
Sodipo noted that there was an urgent need to incorporate key professional health workers’ associations in the EOC to strengthen dissemination of timely information and accurate responses to contain the spread of the virus in the country.
“We have made a plea to the Lagos State Government that they should carry along the health workers, and the best way to do that is to involve the professional associations like the Medical Guild, the Nurses, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and all key medical professionals.
“This is because, members of these associations are the ones that care for patients, and we want to ensure that there is no fear among the health workers.
“The only way to do that is for health workers to have access to all the right information and timely ones,” he said.
Sodipo noted that presently, the associations are yet to be fully integrated, though, he acknowledged that they had been receiving briefing from time to time.
“Most of the information we have is what every other person in Nigeria has.
“We feel that as a medical association that should not be, once we have access to the right information, we can educate people, educate our members, allay their fears and squash rumours.
“It is something to be looked into critically,” he said.
Sodipo stressed that involving the associations would ensure their inputs in policies and plans that would serve national interest.
“We do not want a case in our health sector similar to the Hong Kong incidents, that had some of the health workers going on strike when the cases started coming in,” he said.
He noted that right now, many health workers were getting secondary and tertiary information, stressing that it was not the best measure especially when faced with a major challenge of an epidemic.
Sodipo added that the major challenge during an epidemic was information, misinformation, disinformation and all sorts of rumours, saying having key medical professional associations in EOC would instill more confidence in health workers.
Besides, he urged the country to stockpile personal protective equipment, saying health workers need gloves in excess supply, face masks and hand sanitizers.
“All these should be in excess supply, information from other countries having similar challenges shows most of them running out of supply because of medical demands and the ones of the public.
“We know that our primary source of supply is China, which is being affected by low productivity because of the virus, so we think the government should ensure that we have like one to two months’ supply of all the material.
“We need that to be in place because when we start having more cases and we run out of supply of these protective items, it might make health workers to draw back from carrying out their responsibilities,” he said.
He stressed the need to continue with active surveillance of all entries to the country, saying that most times attention was on foreigners, whereas some Nigerians had also traveled to some of the countries with high COVID-19 incidences.
“Anyone coming from any of these countries should be thoroughly checked, followed up and also sensitised on the importance of giving accurate contact information for tracking,” he said.
According to him, government should have enough test kits for COVID-19 to conduct test on travelers from countries with incidences, irrespective of whether the travelers were asymptomatic at the point of entry.
He noted that some other countries with incidences had adopted the measure, even though it was expensive.
Sodipo urged the government to ensure that places where patients were quarantined were comfortable and secured, adding that the country should move beyond self-quarantine.
He urged the governments to ensure prompt release of funds and proper utilisation of the funds toward containing the spread of the virus.
The Guild Chairman also urged the media to support the fight against the virus by publishing only accurate and factual information about the incident.