The COVID-19 PTF has said it will express its reservations to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum about hospitals rejecting patients on suspicion of being infected with the virus and leaving them to die.
The COVID-19 PTF, during an investigative hearing organised by the House Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 in Abuja on Friday, noted that for the purpose of research on COVID-19, it had reserved the sum of N200m, which the House of Representatives said was “grossly inadequate.”
The committee is investigating the role of research institutes in the fight against COVID-19 and other diseases in Nigeria.
At the event were the Minister of Health, Prof Osagie Ehanire; Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora; Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu; DG, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye; and DG, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Dr Peter Adigwe.
Ehanire, while addressing the committee members, expressed concern over the rising cases of rejection of emergency cases by hospitals.
The minister said, “With the directive to treat patients, that is something that has been extremely disturbing. People are being rejected everywhere.
Nigerians are worried. We have lost some very important citizens; many citizens getting to the doorstep of hospitals and are being told to go away.
“Many of them actually just die on the premises or on the road in the car, when they are told to go and they can’t try anymore. Some of them have gone to four or five hospitals and got no help. We have put the order down that all hospitals should attend to all patients who come in, particularly emergency cases.
“‘No bed’ is not an excuse; you can treat the person on the floor and save their life, even if it is just oxygen, instead of sending them out because there are no beds.”
Ehanire explained that the N200m was only for the research being sponsored by the COVID-19 PTF, saying, “The PTF put that money aside for COVID-19-related research but every other research organisation has its own budget.
“This is not to say the budget is sufficient because research is not something that actually yields (profit); you just spend (on it). So, the budget is not enough. It could be increased. And I’ll be very happy if we could get the favour of the House to support increase in research (funding) across the board for agencies.”
However, the Chairman of the House committee, Haruna Mshelia, argued that the agencies adjudged the funds inadequate because of their dilapidated facilities.
COVID-19 PTF Insists Wearing Face Masks Compulsory
Mustapha dispelled the insinuation that the wearing of face masks in public is optional.
He explained that in accordance with the regulations signed by the president pursuant to the Quarantine Act, it is compulsory for everyone to wear a face mask.
He said all the protocols, including the use of face masks, were predicated on the Quarantine Act.
He urged governors and security agencies with the power of enforcement to ensure that that it is enforced for the overall good of all.
“Because we are persuasive does not mean there is an option to it. It was part of the declaration signed by Mr. President. All the protocols are predicated on the authority vested on Mr. President by the Quarantine Act. And once he appended his signature to that, everything listed there has the force of law.
“Our appeal is borne out of the fact that it is a collective effort that each and every Nigerian has a responsibility to himself and to other Nigerians to ensure that when we are in the open we wear a mask. We are deliberate about it so that our people will not go and be picking things from the dust bin and be hanging on their faces. As simple about it, even a handkerchief can serve a purpose. It is not in any way an optional thing; it is a must,” Mustapha said.
Mshelia, said, “Members are disturbed because most of your agencies are (victims) of infrastructural decay. They need to upgrade a lot of laboratory equipment and other things. I am sure due to COVID-19, it is not just one agency that is going to do the investigation. We need to trigger, at least, five of them to work on the same thing.
“A lot of them have challenges and that is why they are thinking the N200m is too small. So, I think you are better off not mentioning that because, if it keeps entering our ears and we see anything more than N200m in the budget, we will cancel it. It is better that it is silent.”
Ehanire urged the House to appropriate more funds for medical and pharmaceutical research, especially on COVID-19.
Ihekweazu, in his address, noted that states where governors or prominent leaders were infected with COVID-19 recorded more testing.
He said, “On testing, we are working very hard to increase testing capacity. We also need your voices in the states. Our challenge now is not actually with testing capacity in the labs; it is just how to break the stigmatisation and everything that prevents people from getting tested.
“It is always a sad thing when a leader is infected but every state where the leader of that state has unfortunately become infected, you’ll see an upsurge in testing. It just shows that, sometimes, being open around and among the elite leads others to follow down the pathway to tests.
“So, it is very important that we don’t wait for that to happen and use our voices to encourage our constituents to come for testing wherever that is possible.”
Adigwe, in his presentation, said NAPRID has put together about 20 “high-valued research and development projects.”
He stated that the agency had put together a drug, Niprimol, “which is strong immuno-mutilated activity and all the clinical trial of the product has been completed,” adding that it shows “great promise.”
The NAPRID boss said, “Next week, we will be presenting the full report, including the pharmacology and toxicology report to the minister. The ministry has granted approval for the agency to put together an Artemisia annual combination therapy, which can potentially address COVID-19. That project will start once the grant is released.”
Adeyeye, in her presentation, said before the pandemic, 26 companies were registered with NAFDAC to make hand sanitisers, but that the number had ballooned to 103 companies, which have been given expedited review and are now in production.
She added, “Since COVID-19, we have received about 20 herbal medicinal products applications and we have given it expedited review approach of about six weeks to evaluate the safety, after which the clinical trial for efficacy will be done, and we have to review the protocols. These products are still under evaluation.”