Highlights Of Response By The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire At The PTF Briefing On COVID-19, Thursday 18th June, 2020

On the current strike action of the National Association of Resident Doctors:
“On the question seeking information about the Resident Doctors -  National Association of Resident Doctors  who are on strike, which I deliberately did not speak about during my presentation just now, I had a meeting with the Resident Doctors this morning in my office, they came in, into the middle of my schedule, we had a real firm discussion, it is clear that there are some things that they are frustrated about, perhaps justifiably and many of the things they reported there had merit.  

And what I had to make clear to them was that we work within a system where things follow certain processes and they are there to listen very carefully to me, in fact, they were very attentive, I think we have a very good rapport, they spoke and we spoke, I made them to understand that we work within certain systems and there are many of those observations they made which can be remedied easily like the ones on Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) which as a matter of fact has been distributed widely in two phases:  

- First of all to each State Government and
- Secondly to every Tertiary Hospital in all States,

So, if I hear now that there is a shortage in FCT, I’m surprised because FCT is the closest to the warehouse; we have warehouses in Lagos and warehouses in Abuja and other places.  So I am quite sure that information about PPE is incorrect, because I have personally prioritized the issue of Personal Protective Equipment, I have also pleaded for rational use because we import most of all these and if we use them anyhow, we can easily run out, but nevertheless, you make sure it’s available in all the places where it is supposed to be used.  

There are many countries in the world where there was shortage, in fact there was global shortage of everything; if you look at foreign news you would have seen that there was shortage everywhere, but we have not really had much.  There are places in Europe where they have used dustbin nylons and so on, so we’ve been very careful that we keep a stockpile and anywhere there is a shortage it is immediately remedied.  

It is because we are using a digital system; it is electronic system to make sure that the management of commodities of that nature is properly documented and I asked yesterday for a report, I got it this morning, the feedback on distribution of PPEs.   I have it on my table right now, well documented, supplied everywhere. Sometimes it may be that the warehouse of the particular facility has not given it out, I don’t know but we are on the central side here doing everything to facilitate distribution of PPEs.

Young Doctors also have some perfidious believe that we could here, dictate what goes on in other States; there are certain complaints which they are not having with the Federal Government, not with the Federal Ministry of Health but with certain States, on which we say that we can only put in a word, but we can’t, we don’t have power to enforce on the States; we can put in a good word, but we can’t deal with the problem within the State with the State Government. So, we will put in a word, we have assured them of that but they shouldn’t have the impression that we can solve problems that occurred in specific States, we do have the place of advocacy to request and also sometimes worry some Governors to attend to certain issues regarding Doctors; so that one was cleared up.
And the few other things which they brought up are easily cleared, we can take care of those ones, there are not big problems, issues of discipline and so on which we have undertaken to address besides the PPE.

I am assured that they will reconsider; we had a very frank talk and I also explained that this COVID period is not a good time to withdraw service, because people’s lives can be at risk, it may be the life of somebody you know, it may be the life of a relative.  There is nothing that can really be so serious, such that anybody who can be helped during this process should be left to be hurt; so they appear to appreciate that very well and because COVID-19 does not discriminate between anyone at all, so they appear to understand that I believe, they will do the right thing and go back to the duty as required.”

On using spiritual therapy to treat or cure COVID-19:
“With regards to spiritual therapy, well I think that’s left to anyone, anyone can request for spiritual therapy; during the period of treatment, you can request for your Pastor, Imam or any other psychologist or whatever form of spiritual help.
We provide psychosocial support, we provide a physiologist, we provide psychologist generally and psycho-therapy and psychosocial support at the moment, but that spiritual therapy is open to everybody according to their belief and according to their own request.

On the issue with the verbal autopsy report submitted to Kano State Government which is at variance with what we were made to believe:
The FMOH’s Kano Task Force submitted their report and there is a slight variance with what the Kano State Government announced yesterday, we are going to call our experts to review the two, they may have used different methodologist to look at the cases, but we are going to look at the two findings. They are not totally far from each other because they do admit that a certain percentage of unexplained fatalities were due to COVID-19; there is a slight, so we are going to look at it, but other factors that were brought in will be looked at and examined.

Now I did mention that there is medicine that is we are going to ask our technicians to try and I think it is emh, I didn’t put a name to it, because I didn’t want people running around going to look for medicines; these are not medicines you should be using, there are medicines that the Doctor is to prescribe and the Doctors only should prescribe such for you.  

Luckily this medicine is not new, it is well known, it is used for other purposes, it’s a steroid that is used generally for many other purposes and was found to be useful in this case.  So, it is easy to try it out; because, number one, you already know it, you know the side effects; you are not dealing with something where you have to worry about the side effects.  If you are dealing with a new discovery, you look at the short term side effect and the long term side effect, but this one is already well known, so there is little risk or fear.  

Secondly, the usual dosage is also well known and is also a medicine that is not terribly expensive or terribly unavailable so we are going to ask our clinicians to also consider adding it to their trials and see what results it works in our own circumstances for this particular problem.

On the question of rejecting patients at treatment centres:
That is something I’ve been preaching against; we have always said that the least we can do is a trial, examine a patient and give them an advise because if you give somebody an advice on what to do and where to go, it is also a medical help.  That you give them guidance on what to do, so that is something we expect every practitioner to do.  In fact, even if you are not on duty, you can do that and it is not something that the Government supports at all, that you reject patients and don’t give them any treatment.

On neglected tropical diseases:
With regards to neglected diseases, yes, neglected tropical diseases, we want the service to go on.  It is true that there has been a decline in the services being offered; routine services being offered at our hospitals, both public and private, we want those figures to get better, in all the interventions we have made, we have always sent people from Family Health and people from Primary Health Care to ensure that they restore and revive the problem or lack or reducing service to routine cases.

On validation of test kits:
All test kits whether there are domestically produced or they are imported are put to verification; we have to be validate all of them. There is no difference, so those agencies responsible for validation carry out that duty and it is when they have done it that they give you their go-ahead to use it so in some cases they give you a number , a number like NAFDAC, so when you see a NAFDAC number, you know that it is okay. So it is not depending on whether it is produced locally or in other countries.”

On the need for healthcare volunteers:
“Volunteers, yes, volunteers we have called for them right from day one; we have always called for volunteers, we have called for all those who have retired and are willing to join us to come forward.  So, right from day one, if you look at our announcements and briefs, we have been calling for volunteers from day one.  So, it is not a new thing and we are calling for volunteers to still come out as we have said to support the effort, because we require more efforts; some Doctors are working excessive, some Doctors are doing double shifts and there are cases where some patients with very serious problems require many hours of a Doctor’s attention. So yes, we have been calling for volunteer nurses, volunteer doctors, volunteer laboratories scientist and so on. And so, that is something that is on-going in our strategy, Thank you.”

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Compiled by Blessing Efem
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations

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