Nurses under the auspices of University Graduates of Nursing Science Association (UGONSA), on Friday, called for the overhaul of the nation’s health system to enhance effective health care delivery.
In reaction to the recent death of doctors and nurses due to Lassa fever in Ebonyi, the association described as worrisome the attitude of successive governments to the development of the nation’s health care system.
This reaction is contained in a statement signed by its National President, Chief Solomon Egwuenu and its National Secretary, Mr Goodluck Nshi and made available to the News agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abakaliki.
The association said that the unfortunate incident in Ebonyi was avoidable only if the government had lived up to the expectation in the health care delivery system.
“At the latest count, more than 40 health workers have died as a result of Lassa fever in Ebonyi alone in the past 13 years. This ugly incidence has continued because no proactive measures were taken by government to arrest it over the years.
“What we see each time we experience the avoidable death of health workers from Lassa fever is that government officials rush to the press to commiserate with the victims.
“Hypocritically, they resume the supply of basic Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizers to hospitals.
“But as soon as the tension dies down, hand sanitizers, PPE, electricity and running water disappear and become essential commodities in our hospitals, leaving our nurses and physicians with the pathetic option of treating patients largely unprotected.
“And in the process die while trying to save others from a preventable disease such as Lassa fever.
“The worst is that as we bury the deceased in agony, the government mocks the living health workers by paying them five thousand naira as hazard allowance.
“In Nigeria today, we all know that five thousand naira can hardly procure a comprehensive therapeutic drug regimen let alone run a basic laboratory health screening.
“Despite this, the same government that pays millions of naira to political office holders as newspaper and wardrobe allowances does not see any good in reviewing upwards the current ridiculous hazard allowance payable to health workers.
“And this is happening in the face of non-provision or inadequate supply of basic PPE and sanitizers for standard universal precaution in our health care institutions,” it stated.
The nurses advised the Joint health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to sheath their swords and fight together to salvage the plight of the Nigerian health workers especially on this issue of abusive hazard allowance.
They also queried why the South-East virology centre built by Ebonyi Government two years ago was not yet fully functional, necessitating the arduous ferrying of victims of Lassa fever, by road, to far away Irrua in Edo.
“This procedure often leads to death from exhaustion of some of them in the course of such a long distance journey on very bad roads.
“What we now witness in the health system is escalating medical tourism, poor remuneration of health workers, dearth and decay of facilities and incessant migration of our best brains in the health sector to overseas in search of greener pastures.
The association advised Nigerians to diligently observe all the preventive measures against Lassa fever currently being announced in the electronic and traditional media.
“Issues such as rearing of cats in rodent-populous environments, storage of foods and wastes in rodent-proof containers, cooking of foods properly and proper hand washing with soap and water should be strictly observed,” it added.