There are strong indications that a major crisis is looming in Nigeria’s battle against coronavirus as COVID-19 cases are rising compared to bed-spaces available for patients that are being treated for the disease.
On Saturday, COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 12,233, with 8, 065 of them active and 3,826 patients discharged.
But the Federal Ministry of Health told The PUNCH on Friday that there were 6,994 bed-spaces nationwide for COVID-19 patients.
The PUNCH gathered that between Friday and Sunday, additional bed-spaces had not been provided despite the rising cases.
However, the Federal Ministry of Health, in response to The PUNCH’s enquiries on Friday, said only a few states such as Lagos and Kano were battling with a shortage of bed-spaces.
The ministry also gave more insights into its proposed home treatment for COVID-19 patients, saying home care would not be adopted for coronavirus patients with underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.
The ministry stated these through its Director of Hospital Services, Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi, in its response to The PUNCH’s enquiries.
One of our correspondents had asked the ministry, the guidelines for home treatment and the number of bed-spaces available for COVID-19 patients in the country.
In her response, Adebiyi admitted that states such as Lagos with 5,729 cases and Kano, with 997 cases were battling with a shortage of bed-spaces.
She, however, said the Federal Capital Territory and Ogun State had low bed occupancy rates.
The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu had, at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing on April 30, said the Federal Government was considering home treatment for COVID-19 patients because of a shortage of bed-spaces.
He said, “We are going to work with that to keep trying and making more spaces available but ultimately we might have to change our strategy a little bit, considering home care in certain circumstances where the person is able to provide a room where he or she can be managed sufficiently and secondly, we are able to support the care by enabling health workers to come to the house.”
But Adebiyi, in an email sent to one of our correspondents by the ministry on Friday, said there were 7,522 active cases in the country with 6,994 beds.
She, however, said states were making efforts to increase the number of bed-spaces for COVID-19 patients.
The director stated, “There are currently 7,522 active cases in the country with 6,994 beds nationwide but states are continuing to make concerted efforts at expansion.
“The shortage of bed-spaces is occurring in only a few states such as Lagos and Kano where efforts are ongoing for expansion of bed-spaces, while some such as the FCT and Ogun State have low bed occupancy rates due to fewer numbers of confirmed or active cases.”
FG explains guidelines for home care
She also explained the criteria that must be met by COVID-19 patients and their families before home treatment could be granted.
Adebiyi said COVID-19 patients with hypertension, diabetes among others, would not be granted home care.
She stated COVID-19 positive patients would not be treated in homes where there were people with underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
The director stated, “Home-based treatment will be based on individual cases who meet the stringent criteria for such care. This emphasises ability to self-isolate in a single room with convenience for that individual, absence of co-morbidities such as hypertension and diabetes. In addition, there should not be any person in the household with co-morbidities.
“The state should also make available health care workers to monitor the patients’ treatment at home. Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Health and her agencies including National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and the NCDC as well as relevant development partners are exploring various available options for expansion of supervised isolation.
“Discussions are at an advanced stage with high burden states for decentralisation of isolation and case management to the community through the establishment of community support centres which will be state led and community driven in line with approved guidelines and infection prevention and control protocols.”
Kano, Ogun, Edo, Oyo fail to disclose amount spent on COVID-19 tests
Kwara, Ogun, Kano, Edo and Oyo states on Sunday failed to disclose the amount they had spent on COVID-19 tests.
A few weeks ago, it was disclosed that Lagos State had spent N800m on COVID-19 tests.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, said the average cost of a test was between N40,000 andN50,000. As of that time, the state had conducted 16,000 COVID-19 tests.
But efforts to get the amount spent by other states such as Kano, Ogun, Edo, Kano and Oyo states did not succeed.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara State Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, said the state government was not collecting money from people that were being tested for COVID-19.
He said, “The government does not charge patients treated for COVID-19 in the state.”
On the amount spent so far by the state government on COVID-19, the spokesperson said that it could not be revealed because the tests were still being conducted.
The Oyo State Government also said it had so far taken a full financial responsibility of the cost of testing and treatment for all reported 365 COVID-19 cases in the state.
It, however, said the financial records of the cost of testing and treatment of the patients were not readily available as a result of the ongoing partial lockdown in the state which affected the civil servants.
Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, disclosed this in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.
On its part, the Kano State Government said it had yet to ascertain the exact amount it was spending on each test conducted on COVID-19 patient in the state.
The Coordinator, Kano State Task Force Committee on COVID-19, Dr Tijjani Husain, stated this in a telephone interview with The PUNCH in Kano on Sunday.
But the Ogun State Government said neither the patients nor the state paid for the tests conducted for COVID-19 in the state.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr Tomi Coker, said this while responding to enquiries from one of our correspondents.
She said, “Ogun State does not pay for the test because it is sponsored by a donor.”
The Edo State Government on Sunday said though the cost of the test for the novel coronavirus was expensive, but the government paid for it.
The Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagie, told The PUNCH on the phone that he could not say exactly the amount each test cost and the amount the state government had expended so far on fighting the pandemic.
Akwa Ibom spends N11.5m on COVID-19 tests
But the Akwa Ibom State Government said it spent N50,000 on each COVID-19 test. As of June 2, according to the NCDC, the state had tested 231 people.
The state Commissioner of Health, Dr Dominic Ukpong on Sunday disclosed that the state spent N50,000 and above on each test conducted for COVID-19 patient outside the state.
He stated, “We have calculated because we have just set up a laboratory and right now the NCDC is screening our laboratory for approval and I believe by tomorrow or Tuesday we will have the lab approved for testing.
“If you sit down and calculate the expenses on one test it’s in the region of N50,000 and above. The last calculation we made was in that region. Compare this to private hospitals. There are some private hospitals in Lagos, in addition to the federal laboratories in Yaba.”
NCDC sends 100m COVID-19 text messages
Meanwhile, the NCDC in a statement to mark the first 100 days of COVID-19 in the country, said 100 million text messages had been sent to Nigerians since February as part of the campaign against the virus.
It said, “With the support of Nigeria’s telecommunication companies, over 100 million text messages have been sent out since February 2020 reminding Nigerians about measures that can be taken to protect themselves from COVID-19. The NCDC continues to work closely with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, as well as the National Orientation Agency to educate Nigerians on how to protect themselves.”
Home treatment dangerous, NMA insists, seeks bed-spaces in hotels, others
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association on Sunday called on the federal and the state governments to create more bed-spaces in hotels and public places for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The President of the NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah, made the call in Jos, in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Ujah, who commented on the increasing number of COVID -19 active cases, which had exceeded the available bed-spaces in the country, insisted that home care for COVID-19 patients was dangerous.
The apex association of medical doctors in the country last month kicked against home treatment for coronavirus patients.
On Sunday, Ujah warned that allowing patients to be treated at home for the disease was capable of escalating the situation.
He explained that the initial practice of self -isolation for suspected cases which he noted was against Nigerian culture was responsible for community transmission of the disease
The NMA president said “Who says more bed-spaces cannot be created to accommodate new cases? Don’t forget, the initial practice of self-isolation gave room for community transmission because it has no room in our culture. When you return from abroad, some people would come and embrace you while greeting you and even your children. Would you send them away? That made the self- isolation strategy unworkable.
“If at that time, provisions were made in hotels to keep those who were returning from abroad and not asking them to go on self-isolation, I believe that the community transmission of the disease could have been curtailed. So, the federal and state governments should create more bed-spaces in hotels and other public spaces for the treatment of COVID-19 because you cannot treat the disease at home otherwise it would not have qualified to be called an emergency health situation.”