World Health Day: How Nigeria can protect health workers tackling coronavirus
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Nigerian nurses and midwives deserve an improved health and life insurance packages as they lead the battle against coronavirus in the country, health experts have said.
Funds should adequately be disbursed for their training on prevention and control of diseases and they should be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at all times, they said.
These are some of the solutions proffered by health experts on how best to safeguard nurses and midwives in the frontline charge of containing covid19 pandemic in Nigeria.
The experts spoke on Tuesday at an online event to mark the World Health Day being celebrated across the world on April 7 since 1950 by the World Health Organisation, WHO.
Usually, the event focuses on a key area in the healthcare system and aims to develop it.
But, with the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Day this year is dedicated to generating attention towards the contributions of health workers, especially nurses and midwives.
In line with the theme, ‘Support nurses and midwives’, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) organised a ‘twitter chat’ to discuss the vital roles of nurses and midwives in curbing COVID-19 in Nigeria.
The two-hour Tweetchat on the PTIJ official handle @PTCIJ, featured three panelists: Abdrafiu Alani Adeniji, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM); Olubumni Lawal-Aiyendu, a paediatric nurse and; Mohammed Sadiq, managing director, Health Care Leadership Experts.
They answered several questions on the challenges of health workers battling COVID-19 and how they can be solved.
Shortage of manpower
The panelists warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is capable of exposing shortfalls in the number of nurses practicing in Nigeria in the unfortunate event of a major spike in the spread of the virus, thereby putting the few hands at grave danger of getting infected.
Mrs Lawal-Aiyendu said the current crisis presented an opportunity for Nigeria to look into the nursing to patient ratio in the country which she said is far below WHO recommendations.
“Inadequate Nurses and Midwives is a key indicator for poor health outcomes and I plead with all state governments to be humble and learn from the outbreak of COVID-19,” she noted.
In a space of few weeks, the virus overloaded health systems in many countries used by WHO as a model for health worker to patient ratio.
Hundreds of thousands are bedridden in Northern Italy, Spain and the U.S., overwhelming and putting the existing health workforce at increased risk, while offering a glimpse of what awaits countries if they cannot slow the contagion.
In a country such as Nigeria where doctors are in limited numbers and mainly function at the expert level of human resources for health; nurses and midwives provide the day to day care, are more in contact with patients and are likely to be more at risk during pandemics.
With a total estimate of 128,918 registered nurses and 90,489 midwives, Nigeria is currently averaging one nurse to 1000 patients in hospitals and this number is more likely to be concentrated in the urban areas.
During Tuesday’s tweet chat, praises were poured on Nigerian health workers for effectively managing those infected with the disease.
Nearly 50 out of the 254 confirmed cases in Nigeria have recovered after treatment. Only five fatalities have been recorded while many are in mild conditions.
The panelists agreed that the best way Nigeria can maintain the positive tempo is by safeguarding and improving the welfare of the health workforce.
Mrs Lawal-Aiyendu said nurses and other health care professionals should have regular training on infection prevention and control protocols that should be captured on the annual budget.
For Mr Saddiq, there is also the need for adequate infrastructure to make the infection prevention and control behaviors easier to follow “e.g. access to running water in the right places in all clinical areas.”
The public health nurse raised concerns over the shortages in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). “Without adequate supplies of quality PPE, trust me the lives of the Health care professionals are in great danger and this is not healthy for our nation.”
Mr Saddiq, a public health policy advocate, said the risk of nurses getting the infection is very high given that they constitute the majority in the frontlines and also stay the longest in contact with patients.
Participants in the conversation also raised concerns on adherence to infection prevention and control practices by Nigerian Nurses in the fight against COVID-19.
They asked the government to improve health insurance, life insurance, and welfare packages as well as training on prevention and control for nurses and all categories of medical staff in the country.