Doctors under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria, NARD, have tasked the Federal government to declare a national state of emergency on Lassa fever.
Speaking on Saturday, the umbrella body of resident doctors, lamented the current outbreak of Lassa fever currently wreaking havoc in 23 States, noting that it had become a yearly occurrence for Nigeria to lose lives including health care workers to the disease.
Rising from their National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Abuja, the doctors described the current preventive and control measures put in place by the government against Lassa fever as “weak”.
Reports of Lassa fever cases have increased over the past few weeks, resulting in a number of deaths, including two doctors in Kano State and a 24-year-old pregnant woman in Enugu State.
According to the latest situation report released by the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control, NCDC, 41 deaths from a total of 689 suspected Lassa fever cases out of which 259 were confirmed, five health workers were among the deaths recorded.
The NARD said as the first responders to Lassa fever patients, health workers are susceptible to getting infected with the disease.
“Due to these reasons, the Association has deemed it fit to call on the government to get serious on finding a lasting solution to combating the disease,” NARD stated.
Speaking at the end of the NEC, President of the NARD, Dr Sokomba Aliyu, said the decision to declare a national emergency on the Lassa fever will boost preparedness of health institutions in the country.
“NARD calls on the Federal Government to declare a national emergency on Lassa Fever and also to evaluate hazard allowance paid to health workers considering the increased risk faced by health workers.
“Declaring an emergency is owing to the poor preparedness in response to our health institution in handling cases of Lassa fever.
“You will agree with me that it is only when the index case must have come with contact with a lot of individuals, especially health care providers that they are identified, at a much later stage.
“If we have a state of emergency to improve the preparedness of our health institutions as well as their response in addressing the case of Lassa fever, it will contain cases of the disease in Nigeria,” he said.
Aliyu said the welfare of health workers should be a priority to government at all levels due to risks faced in the cause of doing their jobs.
“NARD calls on the federal government to take the issue of security of health care workers a priority both in and outside the hospitals.
“NEC seems to state clearly that whenever a member is assaulted, the association shall call on their members to suspend work until adequate safety is guaranteed in such institutions and the assailant is brought to book fully,” Mr Aliyu said.
As part of the resolution reached NEC meeting, the association seeks the implementation of the National Health Act, 2014.
He also urged the government to ensure speedy payments of arrears off minimum wage and salary adjustments.