Nigerian and international doctors say the outbreak of Ebola two weeks ago has exposed the weakness of Nigeria’s healthcare system, describing the promise by Federal Government officials to mobilize against the debilitating disease as hollow.
SaharaReporters spoke to several Nigerian doctors and nurses who walked away on Friday from a treatment center ( formerly The Infectious Disease Hospital) in Yaba, Lagos. The health workers said they quit because of what they portrayed as the lack-luster attitude of their country’s health officials to the plight of Ebola patients sequestered at the Center for Infectious Disease Control in Yaba, a district of the Lagos State capital of Lagos. In addition, SaharaReporters learned that members of medical teams sent to Nigeria by the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders had become so frustrated by the Nigerian government’s inept response to the Ebola outbreak that they are also threatening to quit, unless the government’s attitude changes dramatically.
The doctors and nurses disclosed that, before Ebola patients were moved three days ago to a better facility next door, they were housed in a dilapidated and abandoned building at the center.
They said it took complaints by families of the victims of Ebola to reporters to force the hands of the government to move the patients to a cleaner, more humane facility.
Our sources said the former facility where patients had been kept had no functioning water supply and no air-conditioning.
“The families of patients had to cater for them and pay for some drugs and oxygen, even though the Nigerian government claimed to have released more than N1.9 billion for treatment of Ebola victims,” one doctor alleged.
Our sources said there were now seven confirmed cases of Ebola patients at the facility with one victim discharged yesterday after fully recovering from the disease. They added that three of the patients were also showing steady improvement while three were still struggling.
Four Nigerians have already died from the infections after a Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, flew into Nigeria with the disease.
One of the volunteers who quit on Friiday said the Nigerian government had done little or nothing to cater for consultants and volunteers who were battling the deadly virus. “These consultants and volunteers were not housed, they were not fed, and they were not provided with transportation to enable them to continue working on site,” said a doctor.
The medical source added, “Because of the level of exposure of volunteers and physicians managing Ebola patients, they ought to be housed near the facility and moved around in a special vehicle to and from the center.” But the doctors often return home to their families and had to disinfect their homes on their own.
The sources revealed that only seven Nigerian doctors were on ground at the center as opposed to 20 needed to take on the challenge of treating and managing Ebola. The Nigerian doctors and nurses are being led and trained by an eight-member team of physicians from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders.
Our sources said the expatriate medical experts were also threatening to leave, citing the Nigerian government’s failure to recognize the seriousness of the Ebola disease. For example, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, had not come near the any of the Ebola victims or given adequate assistance to the medical teams battling the deadly virus.
Instead, the minister struck a deal to accept Nano Silver solutions to treat Ebola from a yet to be named “Diaspora Nigerian” who the minister claims “invented” Nano Silver. The US Food and Drugs Administration has stated that the Nano Silver solution being paraded in Nigeria as a cure for Ebola is classified as a pesticide.
The minister in Lagos yesterday said Nigeria has now abandoned the use of Nano Silver donated by the unnamed Nigeria because an independent assessment shows Nano Silver can’t treat Ebola.
One irate volunteer told SaharaReporters that the minister’s acceptance of an untested drug and his nomination of a notorious former INEC chairman, Maurice Iwu to a committee to cure Ebola was baffling. “The solutions could not have been accepted and used to treat Ebola patients in Yaba because the WHO has also directed that [the Nano Silver ] are unsafe for treating Ebola, but I am not surprised about the minister’s behavior considering that he nominated Prof. Iwu, a serial lier who earlier claimed bitter cola could cure Ebola” said the medical volunteer.
The source said doctors at the center were currently treating patients to combat high fevers. “We’re also rehydrating the patients and managing other symptoms as they present themselves,” the source said.
On the prospect of containing the spread of the virus in Nigeria, one of the consultants said Nigerians should realize that they are on their own. “Health authorities in Nigeria are not doing much to help anyone beyond propaganda,” he said in an angry tone.
The source disclosed that the Lagos State Commissioner of Health came near the treatment center yesterday. “He stood far away from the center where patients are being treated. He ran back and quickly went on air to claim that he had visited the victims, a claim that was a blatant lie,” our source said.