Nurses under the auspices of University Graduates of Nursing Science Association (UGONSA), Thursday, came hard on President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government over the fresh outbreak of lassa fever in Ebonyi State.
The nurses say no less than 40 health workers have died of the disease in the State.
Reacting to the recent deaths, the association decried as despicable the level of lip service paid to development and strengthening of the Nigerian health system by successive governments.
It frowned at the state of the Nigerian health system and called on the government to live up to its responsibility and overhaul the health system for efficient and effective care delivery.
In a statement in Abakaliki by its National President, Chief (Hon) Solomon Egwuenu, and its National Secretary, Nurse Goodluck Nshi, the association said the recent killings by Lassa Fever of health workers in Ebonyi State was avoidable but for gross neglect and abandonment of our health system by government.
“At the latest count, more than 40 health workers have died as a result of Lassa fever in Ebonyi State alone in the past 13 years. This ugly incidence has continued because there have been no proactive measures fostered by the government to arrest it over the years.
“What we see each time we experience the avoidable dead of health workers from Lassa fever is that government officials rush to the press to commiserate with the victims and hypocritically resume the supply of basic personal protective equipments (PPE) and hand sanitizers to hospitals. But as soon as the tension dies down, hand sanitizers, PPEs, electricity and ever running water disappear and become essential commodities in our hospitals, leaving our compassionate nurses and physicians with the pathetic option of treating patients largely unprotected, and in the process, dying while trying to save others from a preventable disease like the Lassa fever.
“The worst is that as we bury the deceased in agony, the government mocks the living health workers by paying them five thousand naira as hazard allowance. In Nigeria today, we all know that five thousand naira can hardly procure a comprehensive therapeutic drug regimen let alone run a basic laboratory health screening.
“Despite this, our irrational government that pays millions of naira to political office holders as newspaper and wardrobe allowances does not see any good in reviewing upward the current ridiculous hazard allowance payable to health workers in the face of non-provision or inadequate supply of basic PPE and sanitizers for standard universal precaution in our healthcare institutions.
“We advice JOHESU and NMA to sheath their swords and fight together to salvage the plight of the Nigerian health workers especially on this issue of abusive hazard allowance because the current government seems insensitive to the plight of the health workers and more so seems too comfortable with the rot in our health system”, the group said.
The association further queried why the South-East virology centre built by Ebonyi State government and commissioned by the Federal government two years ago was not yet fully functional, necessitating the arduous ferrying of victims of Lassa fever, by road, to far away Irrua in Edo State, which leads to the deaths, from exhaustion, of some of them in the course of such a long distance journey on very bad roads.
“With the pomp and ceremony that greeted the commissioning of the South-East virology centre, we thought the government had meant business in efforts to curtail the endemic Lassa fever. Two years later, it is now clear that it was the usual case of “the more you look, the less you see”.
“We have come to the conclusion that the problem with Nigeria is not APC or PDP or any other political party but bad leadership. With the change mantra mouthed by the APC, we hoped that Buhari was coming to overhaul our health system and end medical tourism. But what we have witnessed is escalating medical tourism, poor remuneration of health workers, dearth and decay of facilities and incessant migration of our best brains in the health system oversea in search of greener pastures”, it added.
The association called on Nigerians to be objective and wise and stop voting along ethnic, religious, tribal or party lines but rather on verifiable facts of what a candidate can offer.
“While we urge Nigerians to diligently observe all the preventive measures against Lassa fever currently being preached across electronic and traditional media, such as rearing of cats in rodent-populous environments, storage of foods and wastes in rodent-proof containers, cooking of foods properly and proper hand washing with soap and water, we also call for objectiveness in voting during elections.
“Having seen that the current APC government is no better than the past PDP governments we chastised, we advise Nigerians to make concerted effort to end the perennial health and economic sufferings we have been subjected to by looking beyond ethnicity, tribe, religion and political affiliations and objectively root, in future elections, for pragmatic and selfless leaders whose antecedents testify of their possession of the will power to overhaul our health system, stop medical tourism and turn around our economy”, the statement concluded.