With thousands of health workers, including hundreds of resident doctors, testing positive for COVID-19 and dozens dying from the disease, the other health workers and health services are groaning under the strain, as Daily Trust reports.
The rising cases of COVID-19 infections amongst doctors and other health workers around the country are putting a lot of stress on other health workers who remain in service, Daily Trust investigations reveal.
Within the first four months of the pandemic, 1, 805 health workers tested positive to the virus, based on NCDC data.
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With the second wave, the numbers have skyrocketed with officials racing to compile data of new infections amongst medical personnel with dozens of deaths reported within weeks.
”For those of us in the health sector, we have lost quite several colleagues.
Across the country, we have lost not less than 20 doctors in the last one week,” chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) FCT chapter, Dr Enema Amodu said during a recent news conference.
Daily Trust findings also shows that because of the high rate of infections amongst medical personnel, with hundreds testing positive across the country, some hospitals have had to scale down their services.
Checks by our reporters revealed that doctors who are not infected are overworked in hospitals where services have not been affected.
Lagos reeling from impact
In Lagos State, the second wave of the pandemic has continued to take its toll on medical personnel.
Some days ago, the Deputy Governor of the state announced the death of his younger brother, Dr Haroun Hamzat, 37, a medical doctor at a public health centre in Orile Agege Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in Lagos.
He was reported to have tested positive for the virus before his death.
Recently, Meiran PHC was shut down after some medical staff tested positive to COVID-19.
Dr Adetunji Adenekan, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Lagos State Chairman noted that there is ”a rapidly rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst health care workers across the metropolis.”
He appealed to doctors and all frontline health workers to be more safety-conscious at this time and adhere very strictly to the NCDC COVID-19 guidelines (Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions and other preventive protocols) in the course of discharging their duties and when in other public spaces.
“The events of the last few weeks have been quite unprecedented and very shocking within the medical community of Lagos State, following the increased rate of infections (morbidity) and deaths (mortality) of our most cherished members of the NMA, Lagos Chapter.
“Consider everyone as a suspected COVID-19 case, and ensure universal precautions always,” he said.
Asked the number of health workers infected so far, he said they are still collating the figures.
The immediate past president of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital ( LASUTH), Dr Oaku Itohan said healthcare workers are being exposed, getting infected and dying from COVID-19 in Lagos.
“Some centres such as Meiran PHC at Agbado/Oke-Odo LCDA have shut down, Ijede General Hospital is at the verge of doing so, as several doctors and other health care workers have tested positive to the virus.”
The impact on the health facilities is telling as some of the major ones have had to shut down their services.
“LASUTH is also overwhelmed and may have to restrict activities to emergencies as well.
“Many healthcare workers are in isolation, some dead, and this can only affect the delivery of health services to the populace,” she said.
She advised the government to ensure Infection Prevention and Control measures (IPC) in all hospitals and necessary PPEs at all times for healthcare workers.
She also called for the reopening of closed isolation centres and improved welfare for isolation health workers.
Just yesterday in Taraba, three medical doctors and nine nurses were reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo.
Acting Head of Clinical Services at the hospital, Dr. Ishaya Kwala, confirmed the development while speaking to journalists in Jalingo.
Kwala, who disclosed this after an emergency meeting of the, technical committee on COVID-19 in the State, said the health workers were responding to treatment.
Edo holding steady despite second wave
In Edo State, about 53 health workers have been infected with the disease, with no life lost among them, according to the state’s COVID-19 Incident Manager, Dr Andrew Obi.
Our reporter who visited some of the government hospitals observed that hospitals were still offering normal services.
A patient, Judith Ise, who spoke to our reporter at the Central Hospital Benin said, “I am at the hospital for malaria treatment and a doctor attended to me, but you must wear a face mask before entry to the hospital and to be attended to by a doctor.”
A doctor who spoke to our reporter on the condition of anonymity at the hospital said they are still attending to patients.
He said the rules are that patients must observe COVID-19 protocol by wearing a face mask, adding that they take all necessary precautions while attending to patients.
The immediate past chairman Edo State Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Uwa Ehigiaba said doctors were still doing the best they could even though some of them have been infected.
“Some doctors were affected recently but in line with the state government’s policy, they were immediately treated.
“Luckily, God has been on our side since the pandemic started as we have not recorded any casualty on account of COVID-19,” he said.
Plateau strains under second wave
In Jos, Daily Trust also learnt that the rising cases of COVID-19 infection among doctors and other health workers at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) is affecting the health care services in the institution.
Our correspondent who visited the hospital observed that the two isolation centres in the hospital were in full operation due to the rising cases of COVID-19.
Dr Pokop Wushipba, a Consultant Public Health Physician and Chairman Medical Advisory Committee of the hospital, who took our correspondent round the isolation centres and emergency unit told our correspondent that infections rate in the state is straining facilities with the hospital running short of bed spaces, especially at the isolation centres.
“It is not only doctors that are affected. Other health workers have also been infected with COVID-19.
“We are overwhelmed in JUTH. Now we are seeing more severe cases in the second wave.
“More positive cases are found even among the health workers because patients that are carriers are coming.
“This second wave is coming in respiratory distress and that is why we have to spend more on oxygen,” he said.
41 Nasarawa doctors contract COVID-19
In Nasarawa State, the prevalence of the disease among doctors is compounded by threats by resident doctors to embark on a strike.
Fifteen out of 139 doctors working in the state’s government hospitals had tested positive to COVID-19 when the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) threatened to embark on strike recently.
The Chief Medical Director of the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) Lafia, Dr Ikrama Hassan in appealing to the resident doctors said, ”If three persons test positive in a particular department, what is the justification for closing down other departments that have no single affected personnel.
“Personal Protective Equipment, ( PPE ) has been provided by the hospital, the closure of service delivery by resident doctors amid the second wave of the pandemic has no rational and scientific basis, therefore is unacceptable,” he said.
However, days later, the ARD made a stunning disclosure that 29 of its members have contracted COVID-19 during the second wave alone.
Chairman of the Association in the state, Dr Joshua Moses said, “Twenty-nine of our members have contracted the virus from this second wave, and we are awaiting more results.
“Twelve doctors contracted the virus from the first wave, bringing the total to 41 doctors from the first and second wave.”
One of these doctors was the immediate past chairman of the NMA in the state, Dr Bulus Peter Umaru, who said he contracted the virus while attending to other patients.
To curb the rate of infections, the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) was recently fumigated.
Acting Head of Works Department at the hospital, Bitrus Garba Owuna, who is also an environmental officer, said the fumigation would make the atmosphere conducive for workers to carry out their functions, and that the hospital also engages in routine decontamination of all areas in the hospital.
General Manager, Nasarawa State Environmental Protection Agency, Iliya Yusuf Adeka, said the exercise was necessary to curb further spread of the virus.
FCT: Over 50 medical personnel contracted virus
Findings from visits to hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) revealed that activities are going on as usual at hospitals in the capital despite increasing rates of COVID-19 infections amongst doctors.
A doctor who doesn’t want to be named said in spite of the infection rate amongst his colleagues, services have not been affected because the remaining doctors are doing the work.
He said the only challenge is that the uninfected doctors are now overworked.
Our reporter who visited the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada observed that activities were going on normally with patients attended to in the various clinics and departments despite over 50 medical personnel contracting the virus.
The Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee/Director of Clinical Services at the hospital, Dr Nicholas Baamlong said about 15 to 17 doctors, 10 nurses and five pharmacists have tested positive in the hospital.
“Medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical laboratory scientists, and cleaners have been infected,” he said.
“Imagine in a department where there are five doctors and two are infected, the workload becomes more on the remaining doctors.”
Dr Baamlong said despite the recorded rate of infections among its staff, UATH has not stopped attending to patients in all their clinics and that emergencies issues are also being attended to on a daily basis.
“We have over 200 patients on admission in our facility right now and they are all receiving treatment.
“We also have patients in the isolation centre though it is choked due to the increasing number of cases but we are attending to all of them,” he said.
He also said the good news is that the hospital has not recorded any death amongst the over 50 cases of infections among its staff.
“They were all treated and returned to work,” he said.
At the Kwali General Hospital, the Head of clinicals, Dr Usman Abdulhafiz also said the hospital was operating optimally and that staff adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions.
He said the hospital also has enough PPEs for all the staff to use whenever they are on duty.
According to him, the hospital has recorded only one COVID-19 case among doctors.
“The doctor went into isolation and treatment and was also later confirmed negative,” he said.
Observations at the Kuje General Hospital also revealed that there was no disruption in services even though some doctors had been infected.
Checks at the Wuse General Hospital showed that services were running as normal.
A nurse at the hospital confirmed that some doctors have been infected but there has been no fatality.
Situation sketchy in Kano
In a chat with Daily Trust, Dr Usman Ali, the Kano State Chair of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said that there have been increasing numbers of infections amongst doctors in the state.
“We are yet to determine the exact number, but we have an order from the National NMA to collate data on this,” he said. “We have issued forms to all the doctors under us to fill.
“They will indicate if they have been infected, the date they tested positive, and they are to attach their COVID-19 test results to the forms while submitting.”
Dr Ali said that the result of their data collection would be analyzed and forwarded to the national body of the NMA.
He urged Nigerians to take the virus seriously and use all preventive measures at their disposal.
Kaduna: 500 healthcare workers, 80 doctors test positive
In Kaduna State, there are concerns about the high rate of infection among health workers particularly doctors.
Even the State Commissioner for Health, Dr Aisha Baloni tested positive a few days ago.
The Secretary of the state branch of the NMA, Dr Aisha Mustapha said over 80 doctors tested positive for COVID-19 in the first week of January with one dead.
“Please note that this is just for doctors. Other health care workers like nurses, medical laboratory scientists are not included,” she said.
She also said that the union was not aware of any hospital offering skeletal services, adding that the Ahmadu Bello University where she worked was operating full time.
She also added that in the past they were only seeing emergencies but later opened up all clinics and theatres.
She said the hospital has been working full time since June using the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and safety precautions.
A member of the State’s COVID-19 taskforce, Dr Sa’id Zakari said as of a week ago, over 500 health care workers including doctors have tested positive to the virus with over 50 of them dying.
During a visit to Yusuf Dantsoho Hospital, Tudun Kaduna, our reporter observed patients sitting at the reception waiting for the doctors on afternoon shift to attend to them.
Other health workers like nurses and health record officers were seen attending to patients during the visit.
Most health workers also wore their facemasks.
How to prevent infection among health workers –Expert
Chairman, Infection Prevention and Control Committee, Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, ( DASH ), Nasarawa State, Dr Esther Solomon Audu said there was the need for healthcare providers to lead by example in obeying Infection Prevention and Control ( IPC) protocols as well as being vigilant, in identifying coronavirus cases within and outside hospitals.
According to her, healthcare workers and those coming into the hospital must practice the following IPC measures.
“Hand hygiene must be practised as frequently as possible using running water and soap or hand sanitiser.
“Perform hand hygiene as many times as possible, to save your life and those of others.
“Medical personnel should stay at home except when on essential duty.
“Stay away from crowds, keep physical distance, avoid touching frequently touched surfaces, and if you do, perform hand hygiene as frequently as possible,” she said.
Dr Audu said that they should disinfect frequently touched surfaces- door handles, handrails, workspaces, tables, chairs benches among others with hypochlorite solution.
By Ojoma Akor, Olayemi John-Mensah, Risikat Ramoni, Usman A. Bello, Ado Abubakar Musa, Mohammed Ibrahim, Nana-Hauwa Sule and Ibraheem Hamza Muhammad