A Nigerian health Professional, Dr. Rimini Machunga says non-covid19 deaths might surge if the country fails to develop its Primary Healthcare system while fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
“In Nigeria, we have enormous morbidity and mortality rates even before the advent of Covid-19,” Dr. Machunga said in a public article.
“Infectious diseases such as malaria, Lassa fever, diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis and pneumonia are on the one hand, while non-infectious diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer are on the other hand,” the Family Medicine Professional, Dalhatu Araf Teaching Hospital, Lafia, Nasarawa State said are still killers that Nigeria has yet to control.
With “Rising deaths and disability from road traffic accidents, armed robbery and terrorist attacks, as well as bad governance,” Machunga said “it is clear that we have more than enough reasons to die in Nigeria besides Covid-19.”
“Add to this, manslaughter by ignorant religious leaders who pray away illnesses and cast out diseases, usually for a fee, then add ritual killings and extra judicial killings by security forces.
“What about the poverty and malnutrition that is so endemic in Nigeria. How do citizens feed well let alone purchase medication or pay for necessary investigations to ascertain their health status? How far does health insurance go?” Questioned the health worker.
Diverting all of the country’s human and capital resources to COVID-19, leaving these other issues unattended, the Physician said could be deadly for the country.
Instead of scaling down of services in major health facilities, healthcare workers, Machunga advised should be recruited into the Primary Health Centers of the various districts of a State.
According to Machunga, “Only a select group of Covid-19 – trained health care workers may remain in the tertiary facilities to serve the few patients that need emergency tertiary services in this era of Covid-19 as they anticipate the index Covid-19 patient and the subsequent ones to come.
“Only as these select groups of trained workers become overwhelmed from work, or go into isolation or die because of the virus, that other doctors and allied professionals will be recruited from their secondary places of assignment and trained to fill in the gaps as Covid-19 cases increase.
“The benefit of deploying our healthcare workers to the PHCs is to be able to continue to render the usual pre-Covid-19 services to the people close to where they live and work. In this way communities can be locked down instead of individuals being locked down in their homes.
“If people are not allowed to leave their communities, the healthcare workers deployed to these communities can serve as surveillance officers of Covid-19 while rendering their usual services.
“In this way, the people are served. Community policing becomes even more relevant in maintaining community lockdowns. The doctors and allied health professionals are fully engaged and not made redundant. Even the dentists, ENT surgeons and ophthalmologists were all general doctors prior to specializing. We would still ask them to withhold their specialized services unless an emergency presents because of the added risk from very close proximity involved in their line of work. Everyone can be recruited to serve in the communities as a general physician in this Covid-19 era.
“The healthcare workforce is closer to the communities, even home based care can be offered to people who cannot make it on their own to the PHCs. The aged and the disabled would stand to benefit the most. So also the community chiefs, emirs and their families who may feel too big to attend a PHC.”