Health workers in Lagos State may currently be at risk as the scarcity of personal protective equipment, especially masks, infrared thermometers, sanitisers and protective coverall has hit many of the public hospitals in the state.
Lagos is the state most hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. It accounts for 30 of Nigeria’s 46 confirmed cases as at the time of this report.
The state government has confirmed the scarcity of the equipment (PPE), but insisted that efforts are being made to make provisions for as many health facilities as possible.
Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that at Lagos Island maternity, and various general hospitals located in Ifako-Ijaiye, Lagos Island, Ikorodu, Gbagada, among others, protective tools are being rationed among workers.
The Island maternity’s chapter of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) was compelled to invite experts in sanitiser production to teach its members on how to locally mass-produce sanitisers as part of their protective measures.
Speaking with our reporter, the chairman of the association, Ayobami Amusan, said the safety of its members was paramount, and his executive committee decided to sacrifice, especially in the face of scarcity that has hit the country due to the rampaging coronavirus disease.
He said; “There is no doubt that Lagos State government is working hard to combat this terrible virus, and the scarcity of PPE is not unexpected because the problem is global.
“Our people here are also not helping matters because marketers now hoard things to sell at higher prices. So, when we appraised the situation, we felt apart from providing care, the association needed to improve the skills of its members so that we can improvise during difficult times like this.”
Mr Amusan said every other department and unit also benefited from the training and that the sanitiser made was distributed around the hospital to help everyone.
“You know that healthcare requires team work and you cannot be selfishly protecting yourselves while others are not. Attendants, cleaners, doctors, medical recorders, accountants, and everyone working within the hospital environment deserves to be protected. We enjoy such rapport at the Island maternity because the leadership here is great,” he added.
Meanwhile, at Ifako general hospital, workers confided in PREMIUM TIMES that they can no longer cope with the rationing of items, saying their safety is also very important.
One of the health workers at the hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that even the pharmacists in the hospital who were tasked by the government to locally produce sanitisers do not have raw materials to do so.
The source said some health workers in the state have concluded plans to quit their job if the situation degenerates.
At the general hospital in Gbagada, the leadership at the emergency unit notified nurses on duty that only nurses assigned to welcome patients into the unit are allowed to use the kits.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that as a result of this, the hospital has since cultivated the habit of releasing kits, “especially masks and coverall to only one nurse allocated to triage patients at the emergency unit.”
NANNM writes state, threaten to down tools
Meanwhile, the Lagos State chapter of the nurses’ association has addressed a strongly worded letter to the state’s commissioner for health, Akin Abayomi, urging his ministry to provide adequate facilities, and particularly protective items, to the hospitals.
The letter, which was dated March 24, notified the government of the precarious state of its members across major hospitals, saying it would not fold its arms while members risk their lives in the course of providing care.
The letter reads in part; “…Accordingly, I have the directive of the state leadership to request the management of all institutions and hospitals where nurses provide services to, as a matter of responsibility and urgency make available adequate personal protective equipment including but not limited to provision of running water with soap and sanitiser for hand washing, and where necessary, effective arrangement for transportation for nurses and other health workers who are equally at high risk.
“Consequently, we are constrained to add that, nurses, at this juncture, have been directed not to risk their lives where personal protective equipment are not available or provided by any hospital management and advised to withdraw services until such are supplied to protect themselves.”
The association said as a body with the largest and frontline professionals in the healthcare industry, it would continue to support the government in addressing the health challenges confronting the country, and the state in particular, but would not subject the members to avoidable risks.
We’re working hard to make tools available
The Lagos State Government said it acknowledged the scarcity of the PPEs but said efforts are in top gear to make them available in abundance.
Speaking on behalf of government, the permanent secretary in the state’s health ministry, Olusegun Ogboye, said its suppliers are struggling to surmount the biting scarcity and skyrocketing prices of protective tools.
Mr Ogboye explained that the state has been busy mopping up any available stores where the items could be purchased, but that many marketers are still making things difficult in spite of the biting challenges by hoarding the items.
He said; “In fact, we also realised that some are even mopping our markets to export these items to other countries in need. This is how unpatriotic some people could be.
“But I can assure you that as we receive these items we distribute to hospitals and particularly the mainland hospitals where infected patients are currently being attended to.”
Mr Ogboye added that the state is worried about the skyrocketing increase in the price, saying infrared thermometers which sold for N4,500 now sells for between N45,000 and N60,000.
He, however, assured the workers that the state values their commitment and support at this critical time, adding that as caregivers, they would not sacrifice their safety for anything.
“Without them being protected, there is no basis for any care to be provided for anyone in the state. They are the first point of call, and we realise that because all of us and in it together. We will like to appeal to everyone to sincerely understand the peculiarity of the artificial scarcity we currently suffer. All hands are on deck to overcome it as soon as possible,” he added.
He said the pharmacy units through the pharmacists of every hospital are being empowered to locally make sanitisers, adding that the N24 masks, which it regarded as the best for its workers, are quite scarce at the moment.