By Joseph Erunke – Abuja
Following the easing of lockdown by the federal government in the wake of an increasing number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the country, the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, has tasked health workers to begin to see every patient in hospitals as a suspected carrier of the disease.
The association which in a statement, Monday, signed by its national president, Biobelemoye Josiah and Secretary-General, Silas Adamu, respectively, said it “received with mixed feelings the recent pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari to gradually ease the Covid-19 lockdown which has since commence today, Monday, May 4, 2020”, expressed fear that the president’s action “will bring about the dramatic increase in the number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country.”
“Our fear is premised on the experience of other countries where after the lockdown was relaxed, the spread of the disease was unimaginable,” it said.
To this end, it insisted that health workers must be cautious of endangering their lives by seeing “every patient as a suspected Covid-19 carrier” even as it urged them “to be polite when dealing with such patients unless proved otherwise.”
While noting that “the relaxation of the lockdown will reduce the hardship being faced by millions of ordinary Nigerians, MHWUN, however, expressed fear that “being front line workers in the fight against the dreaded disease, we are concerned that the easing of the lockdown will bring about the dramatic increase in the number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country.”
“While we commend the efforts of the federal government for the steps so far taken in the fight against the disease, we call for caution and stringent measures to ensure that the decision to ease the lockdown does not take us back to level zero where new cases will spring up to the extent that the hitherto weak, and further weakened health system and ill-motivated health workers will be overwhelmed.
“This certainly will be disastrous.
MHWUN therefore, advises the federal and states governments to make available more testing (including rapid test kits) and isolation centres to accommodate more people in case the unwanted happens,” it added.
According to the health workers’ union, governments “need to provide large quantities of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other consumables to health workers at all levels to enable them to do their work professionally.”
“This is important because the health worker is not on a “kamikaze” mission, hence must be alive and healthy before he/she can save other lives,” it noted.
The MHWUN in the statement, said: “Our members at all levels need to be carried along and be involved in all decision making processes so that they can make input as well as feedback to members in real-time.”
“The governments at all levels must also find ways of motivating health workers so that they can put in their very best,” it also said.
It called on the federal government “to further demonstrate her compassion, commitments, and appreciation of the sacrifice of the health workers by ordering the release of all withheld salaries of health workers especially, the ones for April/May 2018, for all Federal Health Institutions (FHIs).”
It also said, “All salaries (several months) owed workers, especially in FMC Owerri, JUTH, LUTH” among others be paid.
MHWUN also tasked, “All state and local governments to implement the new Minimum Wage (CONHESS).”
“Considering also that Nigeria has gotten to the stage of community transmission of the Covid-19, we call on the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to fast-track the training/retooling it has begun for primary healthcare personnel in the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT to equip them with the appropriate knowledge and skills to carry out their tasks.
“This will enable them to understand the mode of transmission of the virus and its preventive measures,” it further said.
“With over 100 medical and health workers in the country already infected with COVID-19, we call on our members to apply wisdom and observe all known protocols to ensure that they stay safe,” it charged members.
On the other hand, it said: “as the lockdown is being eased, we call on all Nigerians to endeavor to stay safe by observing all regulations and guidelines, especially wearing of face masks in public places, frequent washing of hands and observing social/physical distancing as directed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).”
“All Nigerians must understand that Covid-19 is real and does not care about your class, status, and financial background, etc, hence, we must not be insensitive at this period,” it advised.