Highlight of response by Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire to questions from journalists during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Press Briefing held on Thursday, June 11, 2020

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HMH Dr. Osagie Ehanire at PTF on COVID-19 Briefing

On Hospitals which reject patients:
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire condemned the issue of rejecting patient by some hospitals, saying “It is unethical to reject patients who come to hospital for treatment. Every person who comes to the hospital must be seen and attended to and or at the least, given advice if their case cannot be handled at such hospital. “Tell them where to go or call ambulance transport for them. But to say go we don’t handle it go, is unethical.”

He advised that such incidence should be reported to the appropriate authorities whenever. “Write to the Governing Board of the hospital and lay your complaints or you can write to the Federal Ministry of Health or State Ministry of Health if in a State; If it is in a private hospital, write to the Chief Medical Director or Governing Board.

Dr. Ehanire disclosed that the Ministry of Health does receive such complaints and “appropriate steps are usually followed to resolve it.” “In cases where it is proven that there is an infringement on the part of a doctor, it is referred to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. And it is well known that they have gone as far as withdrawing licenses of doctors for cases of very serious unethical behavior.”

On what becomes of Isolation Centers after COVID-19:
To this, the Honouarble Minister stated that, Isolation Centers will only be needed when there are problems of public health that requires isolation and “that is one of the reasons we are advocating that isolation Centers should be within the premises of a tertiary hospital; let’s say within the premises of a University Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centers or at the least a premise of a Specialist hospital, depending on the space available.”

“There are two reasons: first, if someone is in isolation and they develop any form of complications, you might require doctors from different specialties, not only one. So if you have an Isolation Center outside town, it usually means one Medical Officer will always be there and if you have complications, you start looking for where to take the patient to, and that is not a good idea; so if it is within the premises of a Tertiary hospital, you can get the specialty that is able to handle it.”

“And, in the case where there is no isolation case, it can be disinfected and converted to other uses and then immediately vacated.” The Minister appealed that philanthropists and organizations who want to help with building of Isolation Centers should consult the DG NCDC for the correct design; “An Isolation Centre is not just any kind of house, it has to be properly designed, the size, the spacing, the rooms for the beds, the nursing bay, the consultation rooms, so NCDC has a correct design for that and that is the design to be used. And, they are not to be built where they are inaccessible for the full benefit be achieved. “

On Basic Health Provision Fund:
With regards to Basic Health Provision Fund, Dr. Ehanire explained that, it was launched earlier by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and commenced operations immediately, but within a few months, the Senate Committee on Health invited the Ministry of Health and drew attention to certain areas, which they said were not in consonance with the Act, “and that we needed to correct those ones and until they are corrected, it should be on halt. So, the corrections actually took longer than was expected but the benefit of it is that something nicer with a bigger and more robust package has emerged. Those errors have been corrected and we are going to be discussing with stakeholders to see about re-presenting it to the public very soon.”

On whether the Primary Healthcare Centers are well equipped:
As to whether the Primary Healthcare Centers are well equipped, Dr. Ehanire stated that it is perhaps the most important of the infrastructures for addressing basic health care. “And as you know, the policy of the Government is to have at least one functional Primary Healthcare Centre in every collateral ward, which will give us over 9,000; nearly 10,000. Right now we have about 45% of them ready, but what has also happened in the last few months, is that we have made a completely new design of what the Primary Healthcare Centers should look like; a new design so that even existing Primary Healthcare Centers will have to be redesigned that way. I think we will take a photograph of it and send to you for publication. He further explained that it is a very comprehensive, new approach which gives assurance that the Primary Healthcare Centre can work round the clock, must be able to deliver service even at night, so that it doesn’t open and close like an office and citizens can go there when they need help and not be stranded because the Primary Healthcare Centre has closed for the day.

On the strain of COVID-19 prevalent in Nigeria:
Dr. Ehanire said, “as for the strain of COVID-19 is concerned, he said when Nigerians were coming back in batches from different countries, from US, Saudi Arabia, various countries in Europe and China, some of them were tested for COVID-19 but the question didn’t arise whether the strain of COVID-19 they have is the same as the one that was known. As you know, later, the Minister said, the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIPR) did a generic sequencing, the first in Africa to do that, of the index case and it was confirmed to be the same strain as what was circulating in Italy and China. So, we raised a question whether there have been a mutation since then, in people coming from other areas. “I don’t have any information on that yet, but it is suspected that it is possible.” He said he is yet to be updated on that, but that Research Centers particularly the one in Yaba, Lagos and Ede, are trying to do a sequencing that will tell us whether the viruses are the same or different in sequencing.

On the Madagascar herbs:
To the Madagascar herbs, the Minister stated that there is no new information yet, “I have already announced that we gave them to our Research Centers, they are working on them; none of them has reported back yet. The time it takes for all these research is not what we know, but when the period elapses, I will call them to know what they have found so far, if they can give me an interim report.”

On cold season and COVID-19:
The Minister admitted that the period of rainfall witnesses an increase in upper respiratory tract infection; in catarrh, cough and so it may be a challenge to start differentiating between that and COVID-19 but, “it is good to want to get the history and to advise the patient to put on a mask or give them a mask so that whether it is COVID-19 or any other influenza virus or any other virus, there is protection of others, and then carry out the normal diagnosis. “But usually the running nose is a feature of the common cold infection; productive cough is part of it. The COVID-19 generally but not always a dry cough, so clinicians will have to try and find a way of differentiating between the two but the symptoms can be similar.”

Mental Health:
To the issue of Mental Health, the Minister confirmed that it is being taken seriously; “The Ministry of Health has been engaged in mental health support in the North-East to set up a programme for psychosocial support of victims in the North-East which I personally declared open in Borno a couple years ago. So we have experience in providing psychosocial support and there is a plan going on now to build a protocol for giving social support to those who are going to be suffering from the after effect or even the effect of COVID-19.”

On the management of COVID-19 cases:
The Minister stated that the Management of COVID-19cCases is supported by the Federal Government. “We support States. You have already heard that NCDC provides them with PPEs, equipment, set up laboratories diagnostic capacity. There are also plans to set up Isolation Centers. But before those are ready, they are other things that can be done only within the States, like providing accommodation for persons who have no symptoms or little symptoms in hotels or dormitories but many States have done very well in that, some have cleared particular General Hospitals and converted them; F.C.T for example has converted the Idu training Centre into a completely new Centre for COVID-19, and there are donations from private sectors like the ThisDay Dome Centre; Karu General Hospital was also converted for the same purpose and I recently declared open such a hospital in Edo State where the Governor cleared a hospital and prepared it for COVID-19 and the Federal Government supports them in their various needs that are identified. So it’s a two-way game where the States take the lead, where they have shortage of doctors they call, and where they need intensive care doctors there are already trained doctors for such purpose when the need arises.

Compiled by Blessing Egbo.
Signed:
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations.