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Lassa fever death toll hits 31 in 15 states

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HEALTH minister Prof. Isaac Adewole yesterday announced that the outbreak of Lassa fever has spread to 15 states, recording 31 deaths.

He added that there had been 105 laboratory confirmed cases and three probable cases.

The minister told the Emergency National Council of Health in Abuja yesterday that cases were recorded in Bauchi, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Ebonyi, Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Osun and Lagos states.

The minister added that 10 health care workers were affected in four states (seven in Ebonyi and with one each in Nasarawa, Kogi and Benue states).

Prof Adewole said four health workers died (three in Ebonyi and one in Kogi.)

He said the meeting was summoned to discuss the state of public health challenges in Nigeria with a focus on some of the challenges that bedeviled the nation in the past few weeks.

Adewole added that Lassa fever had been a recurrent outbreak in the country, stressing that Nigeria had battled with a series of outbreaks in the past few months.

According to the minister, Nigeria dealt with Ebola in 2014; the country reacted strongly and the response was acknowledged by the international community.

He said: “The success against Ebola created a situation whereby every other public health challenge in Nigeria to be a tea party.

“Therefore assume that Lassa fever and other challenges would be likened to malaria, that they were not serious.’’

The minister said that Nigeria had also dealt with the resurgence of polio, adding that the issuance of recertification will be tougher than it was before.

“The international community will not come to Nigeria’s rescue or certify the country polio free until everyone is sure that Nigeria is polio free, and that is another health challenge,’’ Adewole said.

The minister said that the country had dealt with measles and persistent case of measles across the country despite the available vaccines, adding that government has already commenced nationwide campaign against measles.

He lamented that many states were yet to pay counterpart fund for the measles campaign.

Adewole said in 2017, Nigeria had to contend with the outbreak of cholera from Kwara, Lagos, Kano and Borno states, adding that the disease is preventable with the availability of water and good hygiene.

The minister said first confirmed case of yellow fever happened in 2017, 17 years after the last case in the country.

He said: “We have also commenced the nationwide immunisation against yellow fever that will take about seven years to complete due to non-availability of vaccines and large number of people to vaccinate.

“We have already taken delivery of 25 million doses of vaccines; with these we should be able to go far but not far enough.

“We are already talking to stakeholders and international partners to shorten the campaign to five years.’’

Adewole said Nigeria has to deal with cases of monkey pox, stressing that it causes a lot of anxiety in the country which led to the death of three people.

He said the cases were prevalent in the South-South with Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross Rivers as the focal point of the disease.

The minister said that government was able to build diagnostic capacity to diagnose monkey pox in Nigeria.

Besides, Adewole said Nigeria had dealt with meningitis in 2017, adding the problem of meningitis is poor notification and inability to make diagnosis on time.

He said Lassa fever has been persistent in the country over the past 30 years.

The minister appealed to the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and other research institutes to look into the changing dynamics of Lassa fever.

The minister said: “Lassa fever use to occur only during dry season but now we are contending with an all year transmission of Lassa fever.

“NIMR director-general, other research institutes will need to find out whether we are dealing with new strain of Lassa fever virus in the country.”

He also urged state governments and other key stakeholders to work closely with the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control to address outbreak of diseases.

The meeting was attended by a number of state Commissioners for Health and FCT health secretariat.

Participants at the meeting renewed their commitments to work with federal government facilities in their states to enhance disease surveillance and disease response programmes.

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Why Nigerian Doctors Are Leaving Nigeria—NMA

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The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has attributed poor remuneration and inadequate health facilities as some of the major reasons for mass exodus of medical doctors.

Dr Ekpe Phillips, the FCT Chapter NMA Chairman, said this at the opening of the Annual Health Week of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) on Wednesday in Abuja.

Phillips described the pay package of doctors in Nigeria as poor, stressing the need for government to increase the remuneration of doctors to address the challenge.

He noted that many doctors who left the country to take up foreign appointment did so due to inadequate facilities among other factors.

He listed mass unemployment, lack of placement for residency faced by a high proportion of medical professionals in Nigeria as other factors.

Phillips said Nigeria is losing doctors to foreign countries, adding that Nigerian doctors are leaving the country for greener pastures and the workload is becoming too much on the doctors that stay.

“We hear doctors collapsing because the workload is too much because their colleagues have left to find a greener gesture.

“We have internal and international brain drain; Nigeria now has one doctor catering for 5,000 patients instead of one doctor to 600
patients.

“Brain drain is now becoming pandemic and sad news because government did not and still is not doing enough; there is no serious commitment to stemming this syndrome.

“Nigeria which was one of the richest 50 countries in the early 70s has metro greased to become one of the 25 poorest countries in the
World today,’’ he said.

Dr Michael Olarewaju, the President of Association of Residents Doctors, FCT chapter, said that brain drain was a massive problem to Nigeria’s health system.

He said that if the problem was not properly tackled in the next two to three years there would not be enough doctors to treat patients in the country.

He observed that initially the problem in the sector was strike by health workers “but now they are not going on strike but are exiting the country’’.

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Immunization Is Free And Safe -NPHCDA

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From Peter Inalegwu, Abuja Immunization against all vaccine preventable diseases in Nigeria remains free and safe, the Executive Director National Primary Healthcare Development Agency NPHCDA Dr. Faisal Shuaib has said.

According to a release signed by the Head, Public Relations,NPHCDA Saadu Salahu, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaibdescribed as false, the information trending in some social media platforms that the Federal Government had stopped free immunization for the Nigerian children.

He assured members of the public and parents in particular that Nigeria has adequate vaccines for immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases, emphasizing that immunization of all antigens in the national immunization schedule remain free of charge to all parents and members of the public.

The Executive Director seized the opportunity to reiterate the benefits of immunization as contained in the national immunization schedule which includes saving the lives of children and women of childbearing age and strengthening population immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases. He further stated that vaccines and health commodities used by the Agency for all public health programmes are pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and certified safe for use by National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Dr Faisal Shuaib called on Nigerians to continue to support Government at all levels and make their children and wards available for immunization at Primary Health Care facilities nearest to them. He also dismissed some of the very misleading video and audio clips on social media insinuating that vaccines are harmful.

Dr Shuaib urged all Nigerians to disregard the audio and the video clips and any publication that suggests anything less than safety, protection of life and strengthening of population immunity with immunization exercise and activities. The Executive Director urged all Nigerians to desist from playing politics with lives, safety and growth of Nigerian Children. As entrusted public health professionals, NPHCDA undertakes its mandate of making Nigerian citizens healthy with the utmost sense of integrity and moral responsibility.

He expressed the profound gratitude and appreciation of Government at all levels and the people of Nigeria to all the Development Partners and Donor Agencies for their huge investment in immunization towards the growth, wellbeing and the safety of the Nigerian children and women.

He pledged the continued determination and commitment of the Federal Government to work closely with religious and traditional leaders, development partners, donor agencies and the civil society organizations.

Dr. Shuaib charged health care providers not to charge the public for immunization services as the vaccines are provided free and requested the public to direct any inquiries on immunization and PHC to the following Toll-Free numbers; 0803123o415, 08031230416.

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Nigeria Needs 155,000 More Doctors

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No fewer than 155,000 additional doctors at the ratio of one doctor to 1000 people would be need in Nigeria to achieve the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Prof. Usman Ahmed, Provost, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Federal University Dutse has said this is to make more people have access to healthcare.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Universal Health Coverage aims to ensure that all people have access to the needed services of sufficient quality without exposing persons (recipients) to financial hardship.

Ahmed, who is also a professor of health sciences, University of Manchester, UK told the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja that data from the Federal Ministry of Health shows that there were 45,000 doctors registered and practicing in Nigeria, which is a ratio of one doctor to 4008 people.

“Even if we take it as one doctor to 4000 people and we want to have UHC, meaning a minimum of one doctor to 1000 people, we will need to have at least 200,000 doctors in Nigeria today.

“ It also means that we will need nearly a million nurses because for each doctor we need several other nurses, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, audiologist etc. and we don’t have them complete in Nigeria,’’ he said.

He said Nigeria should realise that WHO recommended one doctor to 600 people, adding that “if we use WHO’s recommendation, we may need more than 155,000 doctors today.’’

The don recommended one doctor to 1000 people to replicate a model used in India, adding that India had 840,000 doctors in a ratio of one doctor to 1800 people.

He said the Indian Universal Health Care Commission recommended that the country should migrate from one doctor to 1800 people to one doctor to 1000 people to UHC .

“They call it Modicare. Therefore to achieve that they need additional 200, 000 new doctors to add to the existing 840,000 doctors; they also plan to achieve the required doctors in 10 years by opening more medical schools,’’ he said.

Ahmed said: “If we want to look after ourselves, we need to be serious about UHC through remodelling the National Health Insurance Scheme Act and the National Health Act 2014.’’

He said the transformation of the two Acts and establishment of pilot universities of health sciences would provide a good framework for UHC in Nigeria.

NAN reports that on Sep 21, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, during 38th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) at Ibadan, Oyo state, said there was “no serious shortage” of doctors in Nigeria.

“The data obtained from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria shows that as of May 30, only 45,000 are currently practicing and that gives us a ratio one doctor to 4,088 persons,” he said.

Adewole noted that what was perceived as a shortage of doctors was actually the uneven distribution of practicing doctors within the country.

According to him, the ratio of one doctor to 4,088 patients in Nigeria is better compared to other African countries.

“Compared to many other African countries the ratio is not bad, for example, in South African it is one (doctor) to 4,000; in Egypt it is one to 1235;

“in Tanzania it is 1: 14,000; in Ethiopia, it is one to 1 to 118,000, in Kenya, it is one to 16,000 and in Cameroon it is one to 40,000,” he said.

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