Wednesday, October 4, 2023

FG, private hospitals disagree over COVID-19 treatment

Private health care providers and the Guild of Medical Directors have expressed dissatisfaction with the decision of the Federal Government not to allow private hospitals without accreditation treat persons who test positive for the novel coronavirus disease.

The private health care providers, under the aegis of Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, and the GMD said it was wrong for the government to sideline them in the treatment of the COVID-19 patients.

As of the time of filing this report, the number of cases in Nigeria had risen to 542, out of which 166 had been discharged while 19 persons, including the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, had died.


The Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, announced recently that the ministry was working with relevant institutions to expedite the process of assessing and providing accreditation for private medical facilities with relevant capacity to manage COVID-19 cases. But the Minister of Health, Dr Ehanire Osagie, said on Friday at the task force briefing that none had been accredited so far.

Ehanire stated, “There is none (private hospital) that I know that has been accredited. If you as a private hospital want to run a treatment centre for coronavirus, you have to show first of all that you have the staff; a doctor who must be an infectious disease specialist and nurses and even cleaners who are trained in infection prevention protocol.


“The operations are different from what obtains in other hospitals. While this is not prohibited, there is no private hospital that has met those criteria at the moment.”

Also, at the PTF’s media briefing on Thursday, Ehanire threatened that government would shut down private hospitals secretly treating COVID-19 patients. The Kano State Government also said it would shut any private hospital treating COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, in their response to the government’s decision, the two associations said it was unfortunate that the Federal Government did not recognise the contribution of the private sector to health care delivery in the country.

The National President, AGPMPN, Dr Ugwu Odo, questioned why private hospitals needed to apply for accreditation before being allowed to treat COVID-19 patients.

He said, “Is that the way government collaborates with its people? Do we need to apply? Does every hospital apply anywhere in the world? Health care is predominantly a concern for public and private sectors and you cannot successfully separate them. That is why we now have the public-private partnership, knowing that no matter how wealthy or powerful a government is, it cannot do it alone.

“The Federal Government should not wait for us to apply, they should mobilise their human and material resources to support the public and private health care providers.”

“It bothers us that even up till Thursday, our own minister is still making the world feel that the private sector is not part of this scheme and the private sector is to just identity possible or probable COVID-19 patients and refer to the nearest centre. Is that what the doctor has become?

“It’s not done. The doctor has to be the doctor he’s trained to be. He has to show compassion; the National Health Act which they are part of in putting in place recognises that doctors have to care, provide that initial emergency care, stabilise their patients before they make referral.”

He said the association had tried to engage the Federal Government, the health minister and the directors in the ministry on the need to protect, empower, motivate, encourage and pacify everyone to combat the pandemic.

He explained that there is no private or public malaria and that no Nigerian who dies of COVID-19 would be said to have “died a private or public death”.

Odo said a sector that takes care of the health of the over 70 per cent of Nigerians could not be sidelined at a time of national emergency, adding that about six to seven COVID-19 patients out of eight to 10 are most likely to first visit a private hospital. “The point is that the private sector is still being sidelined; we are not getting the attention, we are not being encouraged and we are not even seen as stakeholders,” he added.

He said government should give the private sector the honour due to it.

He said, “We cannot be seen as a sacrificial lamb. When Ebola came a few years ago, it first landed in a private hospital. It took the courageous spirit of Dr Stella Adadevoh who obstructed that difficult case from leaving the hospital. She eventually paid with her life.

“As we speak, most of the Lassa fever cases that have been recorded in the country were reported in private hospitals. Our doctors and nurses are dying all over the places in private facilities. Our government should see the health sector as one, because indeed we are one.

“The data we raise speak for Nigeria as one, the success we record as a sector is seen as one anywhere in the world. This is not the time to divide the house, it’s a time to heal every wound and act in unity.”

Also, GMD’s National President, Prof Femi Dokun-Babalola, corroborated Odo’s position, saying many COVID-19 patients first visit private medical facilities before being referred to the accredited government hospitals.

He said it was therefore unfortunate that the Federal Government had not given the private hospitals the needed support in the management of COVID-19 patients.

He stated, “To the best of my knowledge, not much has been done to collaborate with us. We have had meeting with the Federal Government where we told the Minister of Health that we are not being carried along in management of COVID-19 in the country so far.

“One of the things we told the minister was that the private hospitals are always in the frontline of attack by these patients. They will come to the private hospitals without knowing they have COVID-19 before we start treating them.

“Even though we have warned our members to take precautions, you cannot really tell that a patient has COVID-19 until you have interacted with them during which period we may have been exposed to that patient.”

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Signature TV
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