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COVID-19: Akwa Ibom not adequately prepared to fight outbreak – Healthcare Professionals

A coalition of healthcare professionals in Akwa Ibom has expressed dissatisfaction over the health sector preparedness for an eventual coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Akwa Ibom.

This was contained in a communiqué signed by the coalition made up of the Akwa Ibom state branches of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN).

The communiqué, which was obtained by CAMPUS REPORTER, stemmed from a meeting at the Doctors’ Mess, Udo Udoma in Uyo the state capital on Monday.

The meeting which was chaired by the NMA Chairman, Dr Nsikak Nyoyoko, had the heads of the other bodies, Dr Akwaowoh Akpabio (PSN), Patrick Odu (NANNM) and Emilia Eliezer (AMLSN), as Co-Chairs.

The health professionals, in the communiqué, raised concerns over the level of readiness and described as inadequate, the measures in place by the Akwa Ibom State government to contain the virus, in the event of an outbreak.

They said their rating was based on a critical assessment of preparedness activities embarked on by the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health on COVID-19, as well as reports from their members (Medical Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists and Medical Laboratory Scientists), on the state of preparedness at their various places of work in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19.

The leadership of the Professional Bodies in the Health Sector of Akwa Ibom State alleged that they had been sidelined, as they were “not being carried along by the Government in whatever preparedness that may be ongoing.”

“This apparent lack of communication has contributed in fueling rumours, lies and half-truths, a situation they described as inimical to the prevention of COVID-19 outbreak in the state,” they said.

They noted that despite the rising spread of the pandemic in the country, entry of persons into the state through its land and sea borders remained unchecked, without any screening.

“While passengers travelling through the Victor Attah International Airport are being subjected to screening, no screening of any kind is being conducted at our land and sea borders with Cross River State, Rivers State, Abia State, Cameroun and Equitorial Guinea where the majority of travellers pass into Akwa Ibom State,” they said.

To address this, they urged the government to set up surveillance screening posts at all road and marine entry points into the state.

Despite repeated assurances by the State Commissioner for Health, Dr Dominic Ukpong, that the state has fully-equipped Isolation Centres, the Healthcare Professionals argued that an Isolation Centre for COVID-19 cannot be said to be fully equipped and operational without the availability of ventilators.

“We also demand that the Government immediately equips the Isolation Centres in Infectious Diseases Hospital, Ikot Ekpene and University of Uyo Teaching Hospital with ventilators,” the communiqué read.

The coalition called for financial and material donations from corporate bodies in the state, philanthropists, political leaders, faith-based organizations and well-meaning individuals, to support the State Ministry of Health’s response on COVID-19.

They noted that “these donations apart from cash can be in the form of the much-needed ventilators, hand sanitizers, gloves, face masks, and other PPE [Personal Protective Equipment].”

In line with the directives of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, they called for a ban on social gatherings above 50 persons, as well as the closure of relaxation spots, entertainment centres, clubs and bars in the state.

The NMA Chairman, Dr Nsikak Nyoyoko revealed that in line with this, operations at the Doctors’ Mess will be shut down temporarily with effect from 12:00 am on Thursday, March 26.

However, the healthcare professionals commended the State Ministry of Health for setting up a Hospital-based Taskforce on COVID-19 at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, as well embarking on public health enlightenment campaigns in English and indigenous languages.

They also urged the general public to cooperate with the government, as they urged religious leaders to propagate only correct messages on COVID-19.

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