The move by the Federal Government to bring Chinese medical experts to help it check the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria has been criticized by local stakeholders.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, had announced last Friday that an “18-man team of Chinese medical experts including doctors, nurses and other medical advisers” would assist Nigeria in its fight against COVID-19.
However, a statement by the President of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Francis Adedayo Faduyile, said the association received the report with great dismay and utter disappointment.
Faduyile described the plan as an embarrassment to members and other health workers fighting COVID-19 under deplorable conditions. This personnel should not have been subjected to the ignominy of not being carried along on such a decision, the NMA noted.
“Doctors are profoundly dismayed to learn that the Federal Government is inviting the Chinese who from available accounts are not out of the woods themselves,” said NMA.
He regretted that the government did not take into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act.
Faduyile further noted that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should have been consulted to grant approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients.
“The association is aware of a large pool of general medical and specialist practitioners who are either unemployed or underemployed.
“These could be engaged instead of foreigners who pose a risk to national security and may not be conversant with culture, terrain and peculiar challenges,” the NMA said.
Faduyile stressed that the invitation is ill-timed and of no overbearing significance, considering that whatever experiences the Chinese have could be shared by digital technology through conferencing.
The NMA hoped that the government would rescind the decision in the interest of the country, warning that it would hate to review its participation in the fight against COVID-19 if the government goes ahead.
The association nevertheless affirmed its commitment to the Nigerian people and the government, expressing support for the efforts of its frontline health workers in containing the pandemic.
Similarly, the chairman of the Federal Capital Territory chapter, Dr Phillips Ekpe, warned:
“We need to be careful of the Chinese coming into the country at this time. They seem not to have a good name. We are not sure of the value they are going to add. Our case is not severe and Nigerian doctors are doing very well.
“We learnt that it wasn’t the Federal Government that invited them; they are accompanying some medical equipment being donated to Nigeria. So, they are even uninvited. They should offload and go.
“There are so many conspiracy theories around this COVID-19. We need to be very cautious. We have so many doctors out there who are not employed. Government should engage them.”
He urged the government to use the COVID-19 opportunity to upgrade the nation’s healthcare facilities and motivate health workers at the frontline by increasing their hazard allowance from the current N5,000 to N200,000.
Also, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) said the country’s medical experts were already winning the battle against the pandemic and should, therefore, be encouraged and motivated, not distracted and demoralised.
A statement by NARD President Dr Sokomba Aliyu warned that Chinese scientists could not be trusted, given how unreliably and covertly they had allegedly managed information about the pandemic.
“Nigeria is too important in the African continent to act carelessly in the face of this emerging but potent threat to human existence. We need to holistically cross-examine the intent and purpose of the importation of the 18-man Chinese team.
“The association is puzzled that the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, would be contemplating such an adventure without first discussing it with key and relevant stakeholders like the Nigerian Medical Association; our parent body; and all her relevant affiliates that parade some of the world’s best hands in all fields of endeavor.
“Some countries went ahead to accelerate the graduation of their final year medical students. They did not turn to China. If the Federal Government had completely employed the available qualified doctors and other healthcare workers before turning to China for medical manpower, to fill any persisting gap, it would have to be less suspicious.”
The association wondered if the Chinese medical experts would accept N5,000 as monthly hazard allowance.
“Why did the Federal Government not bring Chinese experts on the same conditions of service? The Federal Government needs to immediately review the hazard allowance and make it a percentage of the basic salary of all healthcare workers,” it said.
“The news making the rounds in some quarters, that the Chinese experts are coming to Nigeria to play only advisory roles and not to directly intervene in the day to day handling of Nigerian patients, does not appear believable because telemedicine should have been more cost-effective, faster and easier to harness than flying them into Nigeria and moving them from place to place at a huge cost to our national budget.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria has recorded a total of 232 coronavirus cases, as of April 5, in 13 states and the FCT. 33 people have made full recoveries and been discharged, while five deaths have been recorded.
The virus has ripped through the world, infecting over 1.2 million people, and killing over 69,000. Over 261,000 people have also recovered.