Response by the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire to questions filled by journalists during the PTF Briefing on Thursday, 23rd July, 2020

About patients being rejected in treatment centres, in hospitals:
HMH, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said:  “Thank you for the questions, the first one about patients been rejected in treatment centres, in hospitals. That is regrettable.  It is not what should be happening anymore, yes it is true, I had a meeting with the Honourable Minister of the FCT, couple of weeks ago which we dwelt on this topic and called all Medical Directors and Chief Medical Directors of both Federal and FCT owned hospitals to impress upon them that nobody should be rejected.  We are going to repeat that in private hospitals, we are preparing the ground for that, to call private hospitals and also speak to them on the same topic. The policy of government is that all persons who come to the hospital should be given attention no matter how basic and to call for help.”  

“Of course, we are still working on improving our programmes and part of that is the communication we give here everyday that people who have tested positive should not disappear, you should register yourself, we say that every day here and today, I also paid tribute to influential persons who declared yes, I tested positive, I am going into treatment; It's a good example. If we go by the examples, the number of people who fall suddenly ill at night and they are looking for one place or the other to get treatment will be less, if people actually comply with that, and I express my deep regrets to the family of the person you mentioned, I think you said DAAR Communications, I deeply express my condolence to the person and to the family, it is a deep loss, that is the kind of thing we are trying to avoid, that we lose anybody to COVID-19, we are always talking about reducing fatalities and we can only do that with cooperation of all citizens and part of it is that anyone who test positive should present themselves for treatment, if they have co-morbidities especially, they should in fact go on admission so that they are supervised all through the time.”

“The other strategy we have is that, though we have instructed every hospital to also be ready to test, that one is still ongoing; I think there are about seven  of them now that are already prepared to do testing, to take samples.  The DG of NCDC will speak more about that, because the set up system is that you can collect samples at certain hospitals, various hospitals, it's not a big deal but they are prepared, equipped, trained and ready to be able to collect samples and have them collected;

And then we are also setting up, which is already functioning, an ambulance service.  You can make a call and then the ambulance will pick you up and take you to where you will be treated, so that you are not the one running from one place to the other looking for a place of treatment.  So, that is already in the work here.  We did one in Kano and it worked very well there; and we are setting up here in Abuja, also. I was reading a report this morning that they are already operating skeletally and they will be scaled up so that if you call a number that you have symptoms, you are in dire need, in distress, you can call and you will be taken to where you will definitely be treated.  

It is not everybody that knows the best place to go to.  If you go to a hospital next door which is not ready for you, they will tell you they won't be able to treat you.  But, we also urge even such hospitals to at least give oxygen and then call for the ambulance, all clinics should know the ambulance number by now.  So, we request that all citizens be ready to comply with these guidelines that we are giving.  If you have co-morbidities, please report, and if you feel that you are getting that funny symptoms which I listed, I listed them during my speech today, if you have any of those symptoms you have to go early enough to an accredited hospital for testing, don't wait and say ok till tomorrow you will go because COVID-19 does not know day or night.  So, if you get symptoms at 6pm, you say ok tomorrow you will go, it may be too late.  It doesn't know, it won't wait for you; nothing is going to wait so you have to act fast and avoid situations where things now become an emergency which would also not have been. So please everybody report in time and we shall reduce, that's our objective to reduce the casualties.”

“The number of hospitals that can take samples will continue to increase, we hope that we can be able to help many hospitals to at least, take care of emergencies that come in and then call for help, that we should have an ambulance system that will come and pick up the patient from where they first arrived and take them to the designated treatment centre.

So when that system starts working, we see the value of a medical emergency system; as you know, we are working on what we call a National Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System (NEMSA) which is under development to be able to provide services of all types of emergencies including obstetrics, those who can't, who have delivery issues can call the number and the ambulance will come to pick them up; paramedics will be on board, that system is under development, we have a consultant helping us with developing that system.”

On getting the nation ready for the coming of vaccine:
“Now with the question of vaccines, yes we are observing development of the vaccine, there are several candidates been tested in various countries, right now everybody is scrambling to get the vaccines.  The High Commissioner of India spoke in that respect when he visited us some time ago, just a couple of days ago to say that India is also working on developing a vaccine.  I have heard the President of China made the same statement; in America, they obviously do a lot of test and in the UK and other countries in Europe, everybody is scrambling for vaccine.  Now, His Excellency, the President has started an initiative by which the African block of countries should work towards getting access to vaccines. That initiative is going to be able to make sure that Africans are not short-changed when vaccines do come out; and it is our prayers that the vaccine come out in large numbers and in multiple sites.”

On which areas in Nigeria are hotspots for COVID-19 positive cases:
“With regards to the hotspots, I'll leave that to the National Coordinator he is the one looking at the book and knows the hotspots in the country, the Local Government that are particularly suffering from the wide spread infection of COVID-19.”

On sample collection sites for COVID-19 testing:
“Now, we have spoken about sample collection sites, our objectives is to make sure that all hospitals are able to take samples, taking samples is not a big deal all you need is a good logistic to collect all of them, most of the PCR machines have capacity to test large numbers at once, they can test several, do large numbers so if you collect all the samples you can do testing at once, you get many results coming up, as we know now, they are being used at less than 40% capacity; so, the logistic is what has to be done properly and with some more experience.”

On whether COVID-19 can be managed by just any hospital:
“The management of cases is not in every hospital; there are specialised hospitals that are doing COVID-19, isolation hospitals, we've named them here before, many times.  Those are the only ones taking care of COVID-19.  But any other hospital that intends or desires to participate in treating COVID-19 patients can request for accreditation, a team will come and accredit the hospital and specialist can help to demarcate the areas, the so called clean and dirty areas for you, and give the necessary training and make sure you have the necessary staff.  So that is possible, but if you are not accredited, this is not something that anybody should be treating anyhow.”

On what needs to be done to stop emigration of Doctors to other countries:
“Ok with regards to the doctors, well you see this period is a very uncertain period where all countries are looking for doctors from everywhere and trying to make sure that they don't only think of buying equipment, buying commodities, buying this and that, but also look on to increase their manpower and they are ready to take manpower from everywhere.  So, we are trying to see that we keep our own manpower here; as you know, there are incentives that have been given, like life insurance and hazard and so on; all those ones have been provided and we hope to continue to chat with our Resident Doctors and urging our State Governments to actually employ the doctors who are unemployed and make sure that the availability of manpower for health is not compromised.  So, I think that will be the subject of conversation when we speak to the NMA and the Association of Resident Doctors.

Thank you.”

Compilation by Blessing Efem.

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