Moses Emorinken, Abuja
To date, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has lost 16 doctors to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, with 1,031 doctors exposed and 321 confirmed positive for the disease.
The President of the NMA, Prof. Innocent Ujah, made this known on Monday in Lagos, during a press conference to mark this year’s Physician week.
Ujah also condemned the kidnapping and killing of doctors and other health workers by insurgents and therefore urge the federal government to do all within its power to rescue those in captivity.
According to him, “As of 8th October 2020, there were 1,031 doctors who were exposed to the virus in Nigeria and 321 confirmed cases, sadly, sixteen (16) (mortality rate of 4.98 percent) of our members were painfully lost in the battle to save the lives of Nigerians. The prize we have to pay in obedience to the Hippocratic Oath.
“Nineteen years ago, precisely on the 27th of April 2001, African governments made a historic pledge in Abuja, Nigeria to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to the health sector. This vow became known as the Abuja Declaration.
“As COVID-19 spreads and wreaks havoc across the world, the question must be asked: What has become of this vow of allocating 15 percent national budget to health? No disease has ever before laid bare the state of the country’s health sector like Covid-19.
“Covid-19 has revealed acute shortages of critical and lifesaving equipment such as ventilators and intensive care beds in our Hospitals. Dire shortages of medical capacity have further put a spotlight on the poor state of health in Nigeria.
“There is some distance still to travel to ensure that health care is affordable and accessible to all citizens for Universal health coverage (UHC) to be achieved. At the heart of the fragile health systems is the perennial failure of governments (Federal, State, and Local) to prioritize health and allocate adequate resources to it. Nigeria’s, allocation to health in 2020 was a mere 4.16 percent of the budget and it is unpredictable how much of the fund would be released for the care of the people of Nigeria.
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“The COVID-19 pandemic must jolt the Nigerian government to adequately invest in healthcare systems. The scaring statistics of our health indicators in the country which have been further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic is clearly unacceptable to the Nigerian Doctor.”
He added, “For the government to provide accessible and affordable health care for its people, it is recommended that the National Health Insurance Scheme be made compulsory for all adult Nigerians, as well as the establishment of Health Bank, and intensification of Public-Private Policy (PPP).
“Relatedly, the government should as a matter of urgency implement an upward review of the current abysmally poor hazard allowance paid to doctors and other frontline health workers in public service. Whereas Nigeria has a ratio of one doctor -to-5000 Nigerians with many of these doctors chronically overworked, yet they are not adequately motivated, encouraged nor incentivized in any form. Giving incentives to health care workers will motivate them to work harder and give their best.”