The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has rejected the planned arrival of a Chinese medical team to assist the country in its coronavirus (COVID-19) response.
The association, in a statement signed by its president, Dr. Francis A. Faduyile, on Sunday urged the federal government to rescind the decision in the interest of the country.
The association said it was disappointed with the federal government for not carrying it along in arriving at the decision, and for not taking into cognizance the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act.
“We are therefore profoundly dismayed to learn that the Federal Government is instead inviting the Chinese who from available accounts are not out of the woods themselves.
“The spike in cases and the death toll from COVID-19 in Italy coincided with the arrival of the Chinese in the guise of offering assistance. Even the United Nations has only just recently commended the efforts of Nigeria so far.
“It is a great disservice to the morale of the long-suffering frontline health workforce if the government goes ahead to invite these Chinese doctors.
“The invitation demeans their sacrifices so far in this pandemic. We fail to see how the 18-man team would impact the current efforts in any significant way,” the NMA said.
The minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, had disclosed on Friday that gifts of medical supplies were being expected from China organised by a group of Chinese companies working in Nigeria.
“A special cargo aircraft shall leave Nigeria in a few days to collect the items, which include commodities, PPE and ventilators.
“Of great interest is an 18-man team of Chinese medical experts, including doctors, nurses and public health advisers, who shall come along with the flight,” he said.
While describing the invitation to the Chinese doctors as ill-timed, the association said they were not averse to the donation of equipment and supplies because the country could always do with such support as even developed countries receive support.
NMA said the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), grossly inadequate test kits and test centres across the country, as well as lack of insurance for the workforce were critical issues begging for attention.
NMA commended the work done by doctors and health workers at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the various isolation centres across the country, and advised the federal government to show appreciation by channeling the available resources and donations to improving testing facilities and training more workers.
The association also enjoined the federal government to approve better welfare incentives to frontline medical personnel.
“The provision of adequate Personal Protective Equipment, opening and properly equipping more isolation centres and health facilities across the country is an excellent first step.
“Deploying more resources to facilitate testing as we are beginning to witness community transmission of COVID-19 is equally a better application of scarce resources,” it added.
The doctors also advised the federal government to declare a state of emergency in the health sector and fix health institutions as a matter of urgency to stem the rot.