The federal government recently announced that Nigeria was expecting an 18-man medical team from China to assist the country in fighting (COVID19).
The team is expected to arrive Nigeria soon with medical supplies from China, courtesy of group of Chinese Companies based in Nigeria.
According to the minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, “A special cargo aircraft shall leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items, which include commodities, PPE and ventilators. Of great interest is an 18-man team of Chinese medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers, who shall come along with the flight”.
Recall that medical supplies were earlier donated to Nigeria and other African countries by the founder of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma.
The shipment, which came into Nigeria through an Ethiopian flight, carried 5.4 million face masks, 1.08 million detection tests, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 sets of protective face shields.
However, this gesture by the Chinese government and it’s citizens is not welcome by many Nigerians, including critical stakeholders in the health sector and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Expressing its disappointed with the federal government, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has described the plan as an embarrassment to the membership of the Association and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions.
The NMA further described the invitation as ill-timed and of no overbearing significance considering that whatever experiences the Chinese have can be shared by digital technology through conferencing bearing in mind that the NCDC Executive Secretary, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has only just returned from China.
NMA President, Dr. Francis Faduyile, who made this known in a statement, has threatened that the NMA would loathe reviewing her participation in the fight against COVID-19 considering the grave implications and the risk to the lives of her members should the government go ahead with this ill-thought-out invitation at this time.
Faduyile noted that lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), grossly inadequate test kits and test centres across the country, and the absolute lack of any form of insurance for the workforce are primordial issues begging for attention at this time.
He therefore said that “The NMA is profoundly dismayed to learn that the federal government is instead inviting the Chinese who from available accounts are not out of the woods themselves.
“The spike in cases and the death toll from COVID -19 in Italy coincided with the arrival of the Chinese in the guise of offering assistance. Even the United Nations has only just recently commended the efforts of Nigeria so far.”
Faulting the federal government for not considering the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in the country as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act, the president said “This is one such circumstance where the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should be consulted to grant necessary approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients,” he explained.
According to him, “In rejecting the invitation of the Chinese doctors, the NMA would instead urge the federal government to review and approve better welfare incentives to the frontline medical personnel.
“The provision of adequate personal protective equipment, opening and properly equipping more isolation centres and health facilities across the country is an excellent first step. Deploying more resources to facilitate testing as we are beginning to witness community transmission of COVID 19 is equally a better application of scarce resources.
He urged the government to declare a state of emergency in the health sector and use the opportunity to fix the nation’s health institutions as a matter of urgency in a bid to stem the rot.
“It is a great disservice to the morale of the long-suffering frontline health workforce if the government goes ahead to invite these Chinese doctors. The invitation demeans their sacrifices so far in this pandemic. We fail to see how the 18 man team would impact the current efforts in any significant way.
“The Association, however, expects that the government would rescind the decision in the overall interest of the country,” he stated.
Also, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), has advised the federal government to stop the implementation of the plan and rather, immediately engage all key relevant Nigerian medical experts.
NARD president, Sokomba Aliyu, in a statement said “NARD wishes to distant herself from the planned importation of Chinese medical experts to Nigeria in whatever guise or hood for the reasons presented in this write-up and many more.
“NARD shall not contemplate further warning to distance herself from the Chinese adventure by way of withdrawing all her members from every public health facility in Nigeria so that the anticipated downturn in the output of Nigeria’s healthcare service delivery can be properly situated and traceable to the Chinese as is the case today in Italy.”
The Association rather urged that hospitals in the country should be properly equipped with state of the art equipment and devices and all necessary personal protective equipment made available to all healthcare workers instead of demoralizing them with the news of plans to import Chinese experts.
The Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) chapter, has earlier urged the federal government not to invite medical experts from China to help in containing COVID-19 in the country.
Chairman of the Association, Dr Muhammed Adeboye, Nigeria has no alarming cases compared to other countries to warrant external help.
He said inviting experts from China at this moment is not necessary because fatality rate from the disease is high and cases are not increasing astronomically.
He cautioned that any external unwarranted assistance could aid the foreigners to manipulate the virus to be more harmful to Nigerians.
Also, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), in a statement jointly signed by its National president, Chris Isiguzo and the National Secretary, Shuaibu Usman Leman, has pleaded with the federal government to stop the medical team from coming into Nigeria because of the Italian example where there was an inexplicable spike in Covid 19 related deaths when the Chinese doctors arrived the country.
According to the statement, “While some have applauded the way and manner China contained the virus in Wuhan – the only Chinese city to be so affected, we hasten to note that there is more to this charade than is being let out by the Chinese authorities, and we reject a situation where Nigeria will be used as a Guinea pig for any experiment.
“We urge the FG to be more proactive in dealing with these emerging issues because any mistake made will be catastrophic.”
Meanwhile, the federal government, recently disclosed it’s plan for local production of medical consumables like face masks, gloves, sanitizers, and equipment like ventilators.
Ehanire stated that the ministry of health had had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to explore potentials for local production.
This, the minister said was in view of looming global shortages of medical supplies for response, due to high demand by all countries, adding that clinical trials and other processes are ongoing to validate therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment.