Doctors On The Frontline

Virtually every country, public and private hospital with a plan on how to contain the coronavirus is scrambling to buy protective clothing for their health workers.

Doctors often risk their lives to save others / Photo credit: businessday.ng
Doctors often risk their lives to save others / Photo credit: businessday.ng
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No profession is totally risk free.

But doctors are supposed to save lives, not die trying to keep others alive.

Usually, they succeed in doing their jobs with minimal risk to their own lives.

The risk changes astronomically when dealing with infectious diseases.

So, it was with Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh back in 2014 when she out her own life on the line to stop the Ebola virus from spreading to the general populace in Lagos.

She ended up being one of Nigeria’s only casualties from the Ebola virus that led to thousands of deaths in other African countries.

Dr. Adadevoh forcefully quarantined a Liberian man, Patrick Sawyer, who had just flown into the country and was showing symptoms of Ebola and yet, insisted on leaving the hospital.

One reason why she died was because she wasn’t equipped and protected to handle a highly infectious patient.

Some six people reportedly died from Ebola in Nigeria in 2014.

Considering the state of health services in the country and the massive population, that was seen as a huge success and maybe a little bit of luck.

Another known casualty was also a doctor who treated a contact of Patrick Sawyer in Port Harcourt.

In every city where coronavirus is wreaking havoc, it is mostly because the virus had been spreading for weeks and months undetected

With the coronavirus now spreading like wildfire around the world, all available information suggests that 99.9 per cent of hospitals in Nigeria are ill-prepared to test patients for the virus and even less prepared to protect themselves from getting infected.

With the different flights that have come into Nigeria carrying infected patients and majority of their passengers yet to be identified, coronavirus could very well be spreading across Nigeria undetected.

Just when the world was in dire need of medical equipment to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union placed a ban on the export of testing kits and personal protective equipment used by doctors and health workers.

The policy change was supposedly to help protect health workers within the union from coronavirus.

And for countries like Nigeria, which doesn’t produce its own medical equipment, nobody needs to be told that the impact will be devastating in the long run.

European leaders may not like the America First politics of Donald Trump, but they are certainly moving towards adopting it.

In a way, it is also an indication that they are immune from the mass hysteria that has been the general response to the pandemic.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, admonished countries within the E.U who planned to ban exports to other member states saying, “National bans on selling protective equipment to other member states are not good. We need to help each other. Today it is Italy that needs large quantities of medical goods, but in a few weeks other countries will need it too.”

She didn’t have to say it, but the message was clear, for countries outside of the E.U, produce your own equipment.

Virtually every country, public and private hospital with a plan on how to contain the coronavirus is scrambling to buy protective clothing for their health workers.

That is, every country except Nigeria.

The ministry of health has disclosed no such plan.

And yet, individuals concerned about their health are buying surgical masks that are meant for only doctors.

And that in part, is what is leading to the scramble and shortages.

It has led to doctors around the world pleading with their citizens to instead stay at home instead of buying all the available masks and gloves.

Perfectly healthy people are the ones doing the buying even though medical professional have said the mask are better in preventing an infected person from infecting others.

Because they have to be changed regularly, they are less effective in protecting people who just as likely to get infected from touching contaminated surfaces

In every city where coronavirus is wreaking havoc, it is mostly the virus was spreading for weeks and months undetected.

And in China where it was first detected, the virus could have spread to far more cities and maybe even countries if it wasn’t for Dr. Li Wenliang who was the first to warn of the virus after noticing seven cases that were similar to SARS, another type of coronavirus.

He tried to warn doctors to wear protective clothing in treating patients and instead of the Chinese government following up on his warnings, it had him investigated for spreading rumours and disturbing public order.

European leaders may not like the America First politics of Donald Trump, but they are certainly moving towards adopting it

This was all in December 2019. By the end of January, he had been diagnosed with coronavirus and would eventually lose his life to the virus.

From those seven cases he noticed in Wuhan, Central Hubei Province in China, there are now more than 334,000 cases and an estimated 14, 599 deaths around the world.

90,000 other people have recovered from the virus.

In China, more than 3,000 doctors have been infected and at least five reported deaths.

Across the world, some 2,600 doctors have been infected.

And it is not just governments that are failing to protect, their deaths are also being driven by mass hysteria and panic by the general public.

Containing the spread of coronavirus in a city like Lagos will be next to impossible.

Public transportation in the state is a perfect medium for the spread with people pushing against one another and literally breathing in each other’s faces.

Then there is that unexpected cough or sneeze.

In every cough, there are some 30,000 droplets with potential to carry and spread the virus.

Now, it has also been confirmed that the virus can survive in the air for anything between nine to 28 hours depending on the temperature.

Apart from droplets that are airborne, they land directly on other people, on clothing and surfaces.

In Nigeria, it is unheard of for ATM keypads and door handles to be cleaned or disinfected.

While the government is making preparation for hundreds to be infected in a handful of states, the fears is that thousands of people, maybe more could get infected without ever knowing it or having the means to confirm it.

That makes to potential for the virus to spread beyond the level seen in any part of the world.

So far though, there are at least 30 confirmed cases of the virus in Nigeria.

While the most advanced countries in the world are struggling to even test patients for the virus, it can only be imagined how inadequate facilities are in the country.

The success in identifying the few confirmed cases and being able to test has been in part, because of the support from the World Health Organisation.

But without its own contingency plan, there is only so much the WHO can do for a country of 200 million people, most especially when there when 7.5 billion other people in need.

Written by Shuaib Shuaib

Shuaibu, a former Editor of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers, is based in Abuja.

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