I am Dr. Onuoha Uchenna Charles, a consultant physician/neurologist with Lagos State Health Service Commission. I hail from Mbaise, Imo state. A Catholic and a 4th degree knight of St. Mulumba Nigeria, I am married with four children.
Government’s Response to COVID -19
The Federal Government’s response to the pandemic was robust and courageous, though slow. The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on the 27th of February 2020 when an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria returned from Milan. The federal government then promised to use all the resources available to prevent the disease from spreading. Kaduna state tried, after the state governor tested positive. The experience of the deputy governor and the commissioner who are public health professionals played a vital role in that state. The lockdown activities in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, though not properly enforced was a good measure in curtailing the spread of the pandemic. Overall, I think the government’s effort was commendable.
I don’t believe that SARS-COV-2 Corona virus is man-made. It has natural origin and was not made in the laboratory as speculated. A lot of people believe that the virus was developed in the laboratories and released by the Chinese government either accidentally or as a form of bioterrorism. That’s not true as the genome (the gene sequence) of the COVID-19 virus has been compared with other corona viruses and found to have originated from a natural evolutionary process.
COVID-19 is Real
Most people still do not believe that the COVID-19 virus is real because they have not had anyone close to them die from the pandemic. As a physician I have seen deaths from COVID-19. What could kill a father and a son within the interval of one week with manifestations of similar symptoms, if not COVID-19? The figures to me are real and not exaggerated. However, it is possible that some of the fatal cases could have underling medical conditions which may have been exacerbated by the COVID-19.
Health Workers are Marginalized
Nigerian health care practitioners, doctors inclusive are not taken seriously for years in this country. It has been a perennial problem. Their welfare has never been important to the policy makers. Doctors in the front line in this pandemic are like soldiers in the war front. Provision of PPE (Personal protective equipment) is inadequate, remuneration is poor and working environment is nothing to write home about. This has resulted in an increase in number of health workers testing positive. I hope these issues would be addressed post COVID-19.
Why Healthcare Workers are Infected
No health worker would be careless with his or her life with this pandemic. Any health care worker properly trained in the management of infectious diseases will be well protected. The problem is that the PPEs are not adequate, working hours are long; thereby having long exposure to the virus. Another problem is that few health care workers could be covering for so many patients with attendant consequences.
So Much Anxiety
The major problem patients will encounter is the anxiety about the outcome of this very contagious disease that has no cure. If any family member is positive during contact tracing that also adds to the anxiety. The idea of isolating the patients from family members and friends also adds to the I Have Seen Deaths From COVID-19 -Dr. Charles Onuoha COVID-19 is very real, says Dr. Onuoha Charles, a consultant physician with the Lagos State Government. Excerpts. psychological problems encountered. So regular counselling and prayer sessions help to alleviate these emotional problems. Also, witnessing the demise of victims of the same isolation center is a very disheartening and a distressing problem for them.
Attending to Suspected Patience
It is not true that suspected patients are left unattended to. The problem is that COVID-19 is very contagious and could spread fast. Most hospitals don’t have PPE and test kits as such patients are referred to the appropriate treatment centers.
We Need More Preventive Measures
The presidential task force on COVID-19, NCDC and various state governments have tried to activate preventive measures like the use of face mask, social distancing, ban on interstate travel etc. but the enforcement is inadequate. A lot of young people are not taking these measures seriously, thereby exposing themselves and others to the virus. I blame the poor performance on the ministry of information and members of the civil society for not carrying out massive advocacy on the importance of these preventive measures.
Private Practitioners Could Be Engaged
I believe private practitioners would have been incorporated into the plan to help control this pandemic. They would have been trained in the process of identification and prevention of infectious diseases. To enable identify suspected cases, isolate and refer to proper centers designated to manage COVID-19. To me, this in the extent, to which they can be incorporated, because they lack the capacity to set up complex diagnostic and other equipment required.
Best Approach to Staying Healthy
To stay safe from the COVID-19 pandemic, is to obey the guidelines issued by the presidential task force on COVID-19 and NCDC; namely use of facemask in public places, regular washing of hands, use of hand sanitizers, social distancing and staying at home. Go out if it’s absolutely necessary.
There is Hope
Absolutely, there is hope. There have been pandemics in the past and cure or preventive measures have been found. Example is the influenza, which resulted in the development of the influenza vaccine. World Health Organization and other partners are working hard for a cure and a vaccine and undergoing trials for efficacy and very soon something positive to save mankind would emerge.
Need to Equip the Health Sector
COVID-19 has been generating a lot of resources into the health care system of our country in terms of human capacity, financial and infrastructural resources. Post COVID-19, I would expect the government to upgrade some of these isolation centers into world class hospitals using the facilities on ground and add more to them. Both the federal and state government should do this. Human capacity development in the healthcare system should be a continuous process as well as improving the welfare of these healthcare workers as in other climes.
General Hospitals Not for COVID-19
The government general hospitals are not designed to treat infectious diseases like COVID-19. The bed spacing and ventilation are not appropriate for this kind of treatment. The laboratory facilities are not also appropriate for the diagnosis. Though all these can be modified and upgraded for the future.