…As Electricity workers threaten shut down over failure to protect staff***
The University College Hospital (UCH) has reversed its earlier decision to keep the hospital open following reports of suspected cases of COVID-19 among some of its medical doctors.
A correspondent who visited the hospital on Wednesday observed that the outpatients (OPD) clinics including Medicine, Surgery and Children Out Patients Departments of the hospital have been shut down.
It was noted, however, that the hospital’s accident and emergency department was open and healthcare workers including doctors and nurses were seen on ground rendering services.
The hospital’s main Pharmacy Department was open but rendering only skeletal services to patients with prescriptions.
Also, essential duty workers of the hospital were also seen cleaning at intervals the frequently touched surfaces, including the handrails.
Some patients with slated appointments were seen looking confused and disappointed over the unexpected shutdown of the outpatient clinics.
One of the nurses, who declined to give her name, said she had lost count of the number of patients she had turned back.
She, however, said that shutting down the outpatient departments was the best decision the hospital’s management could have made amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UCH, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, said that the closing of the outpatient clinic became necessary to reduce the risk of a coronavirus epidemic within the hospital community.
Otegbayo said the decision was also made due to the inadequate number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the healthcare workers to limit the risk of transmission and infection.
He said that some UCH doctors were already observing self-isolation following contacts with some suspected cases.
“As I speak with you, there are some of our doctors who are on self-isolation or quarantined because of exposure to suspected cases.
“We don’t have to wait till we start seeing positive ones before we take appropriate actions, as the CMD, I have the sole responsibility to take care of and protect our staff from unnecessary infection and I just want to be proactive.
“As you are aware the number of cases that are testing positive to COVID-19 is increasing and personally I believe in prevention rather than all these curative approaches.
“Some countries have been able to reduce the number of cases because they locked down early.
“Initially we thought we should leave the OPD open but we realise that continuing to do that in the absence of enough materials to protect all our staff including our doctors, nurses and health attendants is not the best option, and the best option will be to lock this place down,” he said.
According to the teaching hospital boss, measures have also been taken to ensure that emergency services remain open under strict compliance with preventive measure and standard infection control precautions.
“We have channels for taking care of those with emergencies and we are going to do that to the best of our abilities.
“I usually call the Accident and Emergency Department a madhouse, but we have had to put in some measures to ensure that is not just the staff but also patients with emergencies are protected.
“We have a spillover tent outside our A&E with measures that everyone who comes in maintain a safe distance from one another and these measures are necessary to ensure that we all work under the best condition in order to put in our best,” he said.
Otegbayo said that the hospital was also merging its wards to reduce the number of patients on admission.
“As the chief executive of this hospital, I have the responsibility to see things for myself and I am just coming from a ward round and we have decided to close down some wards.
“We are collapsing our wards so that we reduce the number of patients on admission, those who are stable we are discharging because we need to sort out and limit the number of staff that will be exposed to any possible infection,” he said.
Recalls that the CMD of the foremost teaching hospital had on March 19 announced that the OPD would remain open whilst attending to patients only with valid appointment amidst the corona virus pandemic.
It was equally observed that all the business centres and banks within the hospital premises have been shut down in order to reduce the number of people who throng the hospital on a daily basis.
In another development, the General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Joe Ajaero, has threatened that the union would be forced to embark on strike to protect its members against COVID-19.
Ajaero made this known on Wednesday in a letter to the Minister of Power, Mr Sule Mamman, after he reported to work on March 23 from a trip to Germany and Egpyt.
He said the minister did not self isolate himself for the compulsory 14 days.
According to him, the minister will be solely responsible for the transmission of COVID-19 to any staff in Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
Ajaero said that by this action the minister failed to provide adequate precautionary measures to protect staff and would be responsible for his failure to comply with the Federal Government directive.
The letter read in part: “Our attention has been drawn to the return of the Minister of Power, Sule Mamman, from his trip to Germany and Egypt while on the entourage of the Chief of Staff to the President.
“The minister despite the president’s directive to self-isolate reported at the office in the midst of agitation and complains from the staff at TCN Headquarters in Abuja.
“If not for the intervention of the union, there would have been pandemonium at the office, on March 23.
“In view of recent developments, the union wishes to state unequivocally that the minister will be held responsible for the transmission of COVID-19 to any staff in TCN.”
Ajaero said the minister did not comply with the federal government directive on people that travelled to countries with high cases of infection to self-isolation.
He said that the union was giving employers in the power sector whose staff constantly interface with customers and the public, 24-hours to put adequate precautionary measures in place to protect staff.
Ajaero said that the union would be forced to pull out its members and would not be held responsible for any consequence arising therefrom.
He, therefore, enjoined employers of labour in the sector to take necessary measures to ensure the safety of its members against the COVID-19.