The Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Friday said that Nigerians must learn to live with the Covid-19 pandemic for at least one year.
Speaking at the media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 in Abuja, Ihekweazu said it is a reality our hospitals must live with instead of sending patients away.
“This message is for hospitals in the country. We have to live with this disease for at least one year at its very best, so we can’t turn our patients away,” he said.
Ihekweazu added: “Most hospitals have set up holding areas when there is uncertainty about diagnosis and the individual is showing symptoms.
“Every hospital should have a holding area and we have been supporting hospitals.
“We have an IPC team that has been supporting all the tertiary hospitals in Nigeria to set up triage centres. A triage centre is when you come in, you are screened and if your symptoms are similar to those of Covid-19, you are put in a holding area until we can determine the diagnosis.
“The technology that we have for testing, even if it works optimally, cannot provide us a test as quickly as possible.
Earlier, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, had said that no hospital should reject patients requiring medical attention regardless of whether they show Covid-19 symptoms or not.
He added that hospitals, private or government-owned, should have a holding room where patients can be kept until a government owned ambulance would come to pick them to a designated treatment centre.
He noted that most hospitals are being supported to become sample collection sites in order to boost the national testing strategy.
He commended influential persons who have tested positive for Covid-19 and came out publicly to declare their status, saying that this will go a long way to encourage others in hiding and let people know the magnitude of the pandemic the country and the world is grappling with.
He said: “Concerning patients being rejected in treatment centres and hospitals, that is regrettable and it is not what should be happening anymore.
“The policy of the government is that all persons who come to the hospital should be given attention no matter how basic, and the hospital in turn should call for help.
“Also, people who test positive should not disappear but register themselves, especially those with co-morbidities, and should, in fact, be placed on admission and be supervised all through the time.
“We expect hospitals to at least be able to give oxygen and then call for an ambulance service. All clinics should know the ambulance numbers by now.
“We can rightly assume from the exponentially increasing numbers that the pool of potentially infectious persons in the community is rising, and with that, the risk of infection for citizens at all levels of society since a very significant number of persons testing positive is not in observation or treatment.
“I must commend persons of influence in society who tested positive for Covid-19 and came out publicly to declare it and entrust themselves to prescribed treatment.
“They do us a world of good by showing that there is no shame and nothing to hide about Covid-19, and they also contribute immensely to building confidence in the health system.”
Ehanire added: “The other strategy that we have is that we have instructed every hospital to also be ready to test. This way, they are able to collect samples at certain hospitals.
“Our objective is to make sure that all hospitals are able to take samples. Taking samples is not a big deal; all you need is good logistics to collect all of them.
“Most PCR machines have the capacity to test large numbers at once. Right now, PCR machines are being used at 40 per cent capacity. So the logistics is what has to be done properly and with some more experience.
“The number of hospitals that can take samples will continue to increase and we hope that we will be able to help most hospitals to at least take care of emergencies that come in through an ambulance system that will come and pick up the patient from where they have arrived and take them to designated treatment centres.
“Any hospital that intends or desires to participate in treating Covid-19 patients can request for accreditation; a team will come and accredit the hospital, and specialists can help to mark the so-called clean and dirty areas, give the necessary training and make sure there are necessary staff.”