Special Report Update : CHINELO PHIL-OPARA –
Recently Radio Nigeria brought a report on the call by COVID-19 patients at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH Ituku Ozalla, Enugu State for free treatment amidst claimed support to the isolation and treatment facility. Our correspondent in this report takes a look at areas the support received was channeled to and what is required to make patients enjoy free treatment in the facility.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, through the National Emergency Operation Center has continued to lead the national public health response under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health and oversight of the Presidential Task Force on COVID- 19.
The NCDC is also working closely with all States of the Federation to support it’s response activities to the outbreak. During its mobilization to help out in the emergency in Kano State occasioned by the pandemic, the Director General NDCD, Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu explained that Governments at the various States were required to champion the COVID-19 response in their areas especially as the outbreak had entered the level of community transmission.
In Enugu, the State is yet to incorporate the isolation and treatment center at the UNTH Ituku Ozalla to bring it at par with the three other centers in the area even after its accreditation in July, leading to COVID-19 patients at the facility paying for everything apart from the service(s) rendered by Doctors, contrary to the COVID-19 response policy which says, it should be free.
When asked why patients at the center had to pay for medication and feeding, the Consultant Infectious Diseases and Co-ordinator of the UNTH isolation and Treatment Center, Dr. Uche Unigwe said the center needed to be taken over by the State Government to enable it to meet up with free treatment policy but the State Government had supported the center with ten million naira meant for infrastructural modification.
According to Dr. Unigwe the center came into being as a child of necessity following the surge in the pandemic and the directive from the Federal Ministry of Health that all Federal tertiary institutions should also be a treatment center for pandemic. He said the center inaugurated in May from its initial state of a holding area with 5 beds to having an additional 20 beds and had expanded with another ward being converted to accommodate more patients.
The effect of not abiding by the policy of treating the patients free as in the other three facilities in the State is a great concern to the patients. However, the State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chidi Aror had said that they were working out plans for the center.
Also the State Commissioner for Health and Chairman State Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Ike Obi explained that the center was not formally in the State Government’s agenda. Meanwhile, the patients at the center especially the Indigent ones are appealing to the State Government to come to their aid to enable them to enjoy the same treatment available in the other three centers in the State in line with the standard of NCDC and Federal Government as well as to work out mechanism for refund to those who had already paid for treatment.