Plateau state governor, Mr Simon Lalong receiving cash from National Assembly caucus from Plateau state in support of the fight against COVID-19.

By M. Peter – Jos

Nurses and midwives under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, in the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH who are working in the institution’s isolation centre have gone on strike leaving behind 17 COVID-19 patients.

Leadership of NANNM in the hospital ordered a sit at home for its members saying the order was necessary due to negligence of their welfare by relevant stakeholders.

The Chairman of the JUTH chapter of the Association, Mrs. Mercy Lenka at a peaceful protest on Monday at JUTH in Jos, said the order was necessary, as their members were risking their lives working under stringent conditions in the center, stressing that there was no special room created for suspected cases at the hospital but only a screen demarcation with a clothing material for suspected cases at the casualty unit, hence their members and other patients were at risk of getting infected with the disease at the unit.

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Her words, “we are taking this action because a patient was managed in the ward and it turned out that he became a suspected patient and the result turned out to be positive, all the people who nursed this patient were tested because of the exposure and then a nurse working at the centre have tested positive. We raised an eyebrow when we saw the temporary arrangement made by the hospital for suspected cases of just a cloth demarcation at the casualty unit.

“We also called attention of the infectious unit of the hospital, but they said the patients would not be kept for up to two hours there for their samples to be taken. it would interest you to know that a patient has been there since Friday, while a patient was brought last night presenting classical symptoms of COVID-19 of which his sample is yet to be taken, this is a risk to other patients at that unit and the nurses there who do not have Personal Protective Equipment, PPEs.”

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She added that nurses at the centre would only return to duty if they were provided with accommodation, incentives and hazard allowances, while threatening that failure to provide a special room for suspected cases awaiting results may warrant a total strike of nurses in the hospital.

“Nurses at the centre must be tested before they resume as some may be positive and still going back to risk their families which is in irony of our advocacy against community transmission. Even if the federal government have not implemented the hazard provisions, the state task force should handle this matter,” she noted.

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However, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr Nimkong Lar, said he was unaware of the development, but would get details from the Chief Medical Officer of JUTH.

The Public Relations Officer of JUTH, Mrs. Bridget Omini faulted the action of the nurses stressing that coming on a public holiday, it shows the nurses were up to what the hospital has no idea about.

According to her, “There was no notification to Management to relay their concerns that this is what we see, can you give us an explanation? There was nothing like that. Besides, that Monday was a public holiday, can anything be done on a public holiday? They went ahead and pull the nurses out of the isolation center which is wrong. This on essential services were supposed to be on duty.

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“Glass cubicles are used as demarcation, it is been a while I entered the isolation ward, to get more details, the CMD will be in the better position to speak on that”, Omini said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Medical Director of JUTH, Professor Edmund Banwat, said it is unfortunate that the hospital’s chapter of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, NANNM has ordered her members to sit at home because of what it calls management negligence of those working in the COVID-19 isolation unit.

The nurses down tools on Monday and left the center which currently has 17 patients receiving treatment for the disease.

Banwat faulted their action saying that such coming without prior notice and on a public holiday is ill-conceived.

“I received a report on Monday that the nurses came to the hospital in the morning and claimed that they came to deliver a letter to Management at the Admin block and they found no one. You know that Monday and Tuesday are public holidays, during the lockdown, we usually go to work but they claimed they came to deliver a letter but didn’t meet anybody so they proceeded to the isolation unit and stopped the nurses from doing their work. That is what I was able to glean.

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“The nurses abandoned the 17 patients on admission there and left. I think that is rather unfortunate because we had no prior notice to anything like that. I thought that whatever it was, either by phone call, they should have been able to reach us but they do not do that.”

“As I am speaking, we have not received the letter they claimed they wanted to deliver to us, formally, we don’t know the content of what their grievances are. Both JUTH and the Plateau State government are working assiduously to address issues since this COVID-19 started. As it is, the treatment centres in the State, JUTH, Bingham University Teaching Hospital, Plateau Hospital, Riyom General hospital are being run by the Plateau State government. At JUTH, we are trying our best, whatever the issues are, we are working with the State government to address them.”

Speaking on the condition of the patients, the CMD said “the 17 patients are calm, we were able to make some arrangements, the doctors are there and we got some supportive staff to assist. The patients are expecting their results any moment from now, they have been on treatment for sometime. Our prayer is that all of them would be negative so that they can be discharged as soon as possible. Our expectation is that since they are all stable, their results would turn out negative.”

He noted that so far, no patient at the facility has been sick to the point of using a ventilator.