Members of the Nigerian Senate have expressed reservations on the capacity of the nation’s health sector to handle the eventuality of the outbreak of coronavirus.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, said this during an oversight visit of the Senate Committee on Health to the Port Health Services at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and the Apapa Seaport in Lagos on Friday.
The Senator said that while it is good to put measures in place to guard against the spread of the disease to the nation, it was necessary to equip the health sector with adequate mechanism in the eventuality of the outbreak of the virus.
He said, “We don’t have adequate response mechanism in handling eventuality of an outbreak in this country and that is what we just confirmed during our visits to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Apapa Seaport.
“It is unfortunate that we have to wait until we have an issue before working on how to curtail it. That doesn’t help us to achieve any solution to the health needs of our people. Taking it forward from here, we will go back to the drawing board; we have to stop this ‘fire brigade approach’ to solving our problems. There must be permanent structures to solve our problems, whether we have outbreaks or not. We must put all the necessary things in place at all the points of entry.”
Also, speaking the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said the visit had given insights on the areas to improve on in preventing the entry of the virus to the nation.
He said, “From what we have seen at the airport and the seaport in Lagos, it shows that we have a lot of gaps that need to be filled for us to say we are prepared for any eventuality.
“The gaps include human resources, especially health workers, at the airport and seaport. At the port health located at MMIA, we have one doctor, and at the port health at Apapa Seaport no doctor is there.
“We also have equipment deficit; basic equipment required to provide an immediate response is not available. At Apapa Seaport, they don’t have the mobility to move to inspect vessels.
“Also, we found that the seaport’s port health is not connected to modern technology, which means we are exposed.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation Technical Officer, Health Emergency Programme, Dhamari Naidoo, said after a risk assessment was done, Nigeria was rated high because of frequent travel between Nigeria and China. She noted that the global health agency would focus on nine states that had ports of entry into the country (land, water and air).
They are Lagos, Kano, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Enugu, Delta and Bayelsa states and the Federal Capital territory. She said WHO had activated the coronavirus preparedness working group at the National Centre for Disease Control with representation from the Ministry of Health and other relevant ministries.