COVID-19: Delta CSO Situation Room condemns closure of hospitals; recommends regular decontamination

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DELTA STATE REPORT


The coalition of Civil Society groups in Delta State, under the auspices of the CSO Situation Room, hereby calls on the Delta State Government to reverse the closure of some hospitals across the State, over the suspicion that some persons suspected to be COVID-19 patients were harboured in those hospitals. The CSO Situation Room also calls on Local Government Councils in the State, to open up all hospitals that have been sealed off by the Councils for similar reasons, bordering on the suspected exposure of the hospitals and their staff to the coronavirus disease.

Within the last three weeks, several hospitals were shut down in the State for providing medical attention to suspected COVID-19 cases. The Ughelli North LGA Council shut down a primary healthcare centre indefinitely, following reports that there were suspected cases of COVID-19 at the hospital. The Council in a statement dated June 22, warned that Ughelli North LGA has recorded a spike in the number of confirmed cases in the LGA. Hence, all healthcare centres in the LGA were warned to desist from treating suspected COVID-19 cases or stand the risk of being sealed off. Similarly, the Delta State Ministry of Health sealed off the building of a private hospital in Sapele, where two ill persons suspected to be COVID-19 patients were harboured. The hospital was reportedly sealed off because it lacked the capacity to treat suspected COVID-19 patients who rightly, should have been referred to any of the 11 Isolation centres across the State. For the same reason, some units of the Ughelli Central Hospital have been shut down indefinitely by the government.

However, despite the need to deploy all lawful means necessary to curb the hike in the number of confirmed cases in the State which currently stands at 912 as of June 28, 2020, the government must not fail to assess holistically, the public health risks posed by the closure of hospitals at a time when the State is faced with a public health emergency. While it is deemed appropriate to shut down places that provide non-essential services such as hotels, restaurants, etc, when they violate the State’s guidelines on the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, the same cannot be said of places that render essential services to the people, such as hospitals. Notwithstanding the pervasive nature of the novel coronavirus in the State, there are several other patients who are in need of medical attention for various ailments, other than the coronavirus disease. It behoves on the government to consider the public interest of the majority of the people in the State and adopt short- and long-term strategies in the fight against the pandemic, for the public good.

The CSO Situation Room, while in the course of conducting impact-assessment tours across the State, received reports that several lives have been lost in Ughelli, Warri, Effurun, and other parts of the State, due to sudden ailments and an inability to access adequate medical attention. It has also been reported that some hospitals are purportedly refusing to attend to patients who complain of experiencing ailments similar to COVID-19 symptoms. Out of fear that they may mistakenly admit a COVID-19 patient which will incur the wrath of the government, and to avoid a situation where their hospitals are shut down indefinitely by the government, these hospitals now reject patients who complain of experiencing diarrhoea, headache, body pains and cough. But, most of these symptoms of COVID-19 also manifest in persons diagnosed of other ailments and who may not be infected with the coronavirus. Where then, does the government want such persons to go to for treatment, when several hospitals are being locked up and the health centres that are still operating, will not admit them, in order to avoid a closure by the government?

The CSO Situation Room therefore calls on the government to rescind the closure of the affected hospitals and ensure they are disinfected and made accessible to the public. Hospital premises and facilities should be thoroughly decontaminated very often, to prevent the spread of infections within the hospital, whilst being allowed to operate fully. All medical and non-medical personnel of the affected hospitals, should be made to undergo a COVID-19 test to ascertain their status. If any is found to be positive, such should be quarantined at the State’s Isolation Centre, while those not infected, should be given adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and allowed to resume work at their respective hospitals. There are several persons in the State who will always need health services for diverse medical conditions and they must not be denied access to healthcare facilities. Pregnant women, infant children and elderly people often have scheduled visits made routinely to the hospitals for medicare.  There could also be cases of sudden ailments affecting any person, which could warrant urgent medical attention at the nearest health facility. Hence, shutting down hospitals amidst a raging COVID-19 pandemic, is tantamount to waging a war against the people of the State, rather than fighting the pandemic.

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