Include private medical practitioners in containment, management of COVID-19 –NMA Chair

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Dr Jide Onyekwelu , Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Anambra chapter, has called for inclusion of private medical practitioners in the national strategy for containment and management of COVID-19.

In his Christmas message made available on Friday, in Awka, Onyekwelu said private practitioners needed medical logistics, like their government-owned counterparts, because they were the healthcare providers with the deepest reach to the people and most times provide the primary services on undifferentiated patients.

He said this was the reason why the NMA in the state ensured that members of Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN) benefitted from medical supplies and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) it distributed during the year.

“The spectrum of involvement of the private sector in health is often not appreciated in health intervention programs and logistics.

“The doctor in the private consulting clinic attends to the undifferentiated patient. Before he suspects that his patient has COVID-19, he must have interacted with him, his facility and staff must have been exposed.

“The doctor attending to COVID-19 patient in an isolation center already knows what he is up against and prepares with appropriate PPE. It is not so with the private practitioner, that is the primary care physician.

“This private practitioner is most vulnerable and needs the most protection, NMA Anambra State appreciates the dilemma of the private medical practitioner, which informed the donation of the PPEs to AGPMPN,” he said.

According to him, the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Amaku, Awka and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Medical Center, Awka got supplies of the equipment.

He said that the association, through the International Society of the Red Cross, attracted PPE worth N2.5 million and training of 25 doctors, who would in turn trained others in the state.

The NMA chairman said 2020 was a challenging year for Nigeria, especially in the health sector, adding that COVID-19 exposed the challenges and inadequacies in the nation’s health sector.

He however applauded the Anambra government for putting in place medical facilities that eased the process of sample collection and testing in the state.

“On Feb. 27, COVID-19 hit Nigeria, it brought in its trail sequences of devastation on our economy. At various stages, schools shutdown, hospitality industry shutdown, travels were banned, social gatherings stopped, churches closed their doors to worshippers.

“Medical tourism came to an abrupt halt and the inadequacies of our healthcare delivery system were exposed, it revealed the gaps that would have been filled if past governments were serious with healthcare provision in the country,” he said.

Onyekwelu advised that threats of a second wave of COVID-19 should be taken seriously and that all preventive protocols should be observed as Nigerians celebrate Christmas and new year festivities.

He stressed that the greatest protection we all needed was to strictly obey the COVID-19 protocol: wash your hands regularly and sanitize as necessary; wear face mask always and correctly and maintain social distancing.

“As we celebrate Christmas, let us have our eyes wide open, gatherings are inevitable. We must as much as possible, in areas where we have jurisdiction, ensure that gatherings are in the open space where social distancing can be maintained.

“For the healthcare providers, we additionally need to maintain standard precautions always, use appropriate PPEs always and believe in God,” he said.

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