COVID-19: Experts call for improved funding, data on health system
By Ruth Oginyi
Dr. O.U.J Umeora, a Consultant Obstetrician/Gynecologist in Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, has called for improved budgetary allocation to the health sector to help the country recover from the effects of coronavirus pandemic.
Umeora, who is also professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ebonyi state university, stressed the need for data collection to help the health system of the country, noting that the virus exposed a lot of deficiencies in the country’s health sector.
The expert spoke in Abakaliki during the 2020 Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Ebonyi state branch physician week, with the theme: “Strategies for Health System Recovery During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Nigeria.”
He lamented that up to date, Nigeria doesn’t have accurate data of those affected by the virus, while new infections have continued to be recorded across the country.
“The coronavirus pandemic is an eye opener. When it came into this country, it made us realise that we have no health system. We are not ready for that pandemic; it exposed a lot of deficiencies for the fact that we had no stock for PPES. The health budget is very low; hospitals were not equipped, there were no materials, and health personnel were not motivated.
“Up till now, we don’t have accurate data of who has the virus and who doesn’t have, and this thing has continued for months, and people are getting tired of the pandemic. As the hospital system is crashing, you notice people don’t come to hospital. Even when they do, you don’t see the doctor; they are either treating COVID-19 patients or they say don’t come, maintain social distancing.
“Everything is turned upside down, so, in other to recover the health system, the first thing is to believe, to know the fact. The fact is one, that the COVID-19 is still here with us. We are lucky that in Africa, we have some immunity; but that immunity can change anytime, and when it comes again, it maybe very ferocious and aggressive. So, we must get hospital standing again and how do we do that? There must be good budgetary allocation.
“We must collect data. It is data that will tell us where we are coming from and where we are going to. We must budget in research, in health personal and infrastructure and avoid politics. We should avoid politics and be very pragmatic to improve the health care system.”
He expressed hope that with development of vaccine for the virus, it will be contained.
“Coronavirus vaccines are coming. It is a pity that people are being encouraged not to take the vaccine. All those things are rubbish, because, it is not one company that is producing this vaccine; so, it will be difficult for them to come together and say we want to monitor this person, it is not just possible.
“The important thing is to know if we can get correct vaccine and covid will start going.”
On her part, Dr Ajuluchukwu Esther Uzoamaka, a surgeon in Abakaliki, Ebonyi, while speaking on the sub theme: “Morality and Ethics in the Medical Profession,” urged health workers to avoid dehumanising patients under their care, but to show them love.
She advocated for health insurance for everyone in the state, so that doctors would enjoy treating patients with proper drugs. She said if the administrators provide the resources, the health care providers would deliver without delay.
Chairman of NMA, Dr Benjamin Umezurike, and chairman of the organising committee for the physician week, Dr Uzoma Agwu, in their separate remarks, commended the physicians for their dedication towards saving lives. Umezurike also called for team work among the health workers.