A medical practitioner, Dr Cecilia Amotsuka, says private hospitals should be involved in efforts to defeat the coronavirus pandemic as they are on the front line.
Amotsuka, the Medical Director of J-Rapha Hospital and Maternity, Ibadan, spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday.
According to her, while many private hospitals may not have capacity for infectious disease control and management, they are usually the first to see an infectious case.
She said that health workers had been maintaining high index suspicion and treated all cases as suspected COVID-19 as the outbreak had reached community spread stage.
“Our doctors, nurses and security guards are facing unprecedented threats like never before.
“At private hospitals, we have made efforts to procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits to ensure the safety of our workers during the period, including respirators like the N95 masks,” she said.
An N95 mask is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.
The medical practitioner further said: “These life-saving protective equipment are now very scarce, expensive and very difficult to get.
“Private hospitals are diverting funds that should be used for medical supplies that are needed for optimal healthcare services,” she said.
Amotsuka said that the country was advancing toward community transmission level, adding that this was where private hospitals had become very critical as the frontline workers.
”Workers in the isolation centres are not on the frontline. To stop Covid-19 spread, it is essential to fully protect healthcare workers with the best equipment.
“We hope the government will recognise our crucial role in this fight because we are the frontline soldiers, a person infected with coronavirus will have gone through a private hospital first.
“All the donations given to the government have not reached the private sector in the fight and private practitioners are like orphans, no one is coming to their aid, ” she said.
She said that healthcare workers in private sector should also be trained and engaged by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to avert workforce shortage.
Amotsuka said that many private hospitals decided not to shut down in spite the obvious risk to the lives of their workers.
She said that this was because healthcare workers were still needed to care for sicknesses not related to coronavirus.
“We are risking our lives during this period. Our conscience will not allow us to close shop; we are not doing what we are doing because of money.
“We have considered it but we know that if all private hospitals shut down, we will witness an unprecedented mortality and morbidity in the country.
” The number of people dying from preventable causes will increase, ” she said.
Similarly, Dr Olusegun Olaopa, the immediate past President, National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD), said that coronavirus was a national problem that should be solved with the inclusion of the private health practitioners.
“We are getting to the community level stage, and efforts to contain the pandemic should be coordinated nationally.
“At the community spread stage, private hospitals are very critical in infectious disease control and management because they are the ones that are likely to be the first to see a coronavirus infected person.
“If the healthcare workers in private hospitals are not adequately protected, they may become infected and from there become the vectors of transmission to co-workers and family members.
“If private hospitals are left to procure protective medical equipment on their own, it will affect the bottom line and ultimately increase cost of patient care which is already out of reach for many Nigerians, ” he said.
He urged the government to engage local manufacturers to help meet with the demand of life-saving PPE.
“Our indigenous tailors can be engaged to make surgical gowns, gloves and medical grade face masks.
“This kind of project can be supervised by medical experts and scientists who will subject them to trial, “he said.
NAN reports that a box of disposable surgical masks which previously cost N800 now goes for between N12, 000 and N15, 000.(NAN)