Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has called for more understanding from the public, especially families of victims of the Ebola infection who accused health workers in the state of abandoning their loved ones, assuring that the government was working hard to contain the spread of the virus, while giving maximum care to already infected persons.
Fashola was speaking during a media briefing in Ikeja against the backdrop of the strike embarked upon by health workers caring for Ebola victims protesting what they described as “lack of appreciation” from relatives of the patients kept in isolation in the state.
The doctors and nurses attending to victims of the deadly disease which is contaminated through contact with body fluids of an infected person felt offended by the remarks of negligence and on Friday downed went on strike..
Governor Fashola has appealed to the health workers to return to work and solicited the patience and understanding of family members of the Ebola patients, saying that the allegation was untrue.
“We sympathize with the victims who were affected by the virus, we understand the trauma and concern the family members are going through. But when all of that is taking into account, it is not true that that we are not taking care of the patients,” the governor said.
He explained that there were challenges in terms of personnel, as handling such a health condition would demand “monumental courage”, adding that even when more health workers volunteer, it would take about a week to train them on the safety precautions using the World Health Organisation, WHO, protocol.
“Even if we have the full complement of the doctors signing up today, it is risky to put them inside the isolation centre without adequate training. People must understand the process required. And when it appears to the people that nothing was been done, it was because we are still building up capacity at the facility,” Fashola added.
On the N1.9 billion intervention funds approved by the federal government to fight Ebola in Nigeria, the governor said the state was yet to receive any money and has worked so far with its own resources.
He noted, however, that the challenge the Lagos State government had was in terms of personnel with expertice and not money.
“This is not a money issue at the moment it is a personnel, control, and knowledge and system issue. It is only when we have put all these into place that we can now beginning to say how much does it cost. It is not money issue. It is not the kind of money that Lagos State government cannot afford. Every help from the federal government will be useful.”
Fashola commended President Goodluck Jonathan for the initiative and concern shown in calling together all the 36 state governors and commissioners to get a full briefing on the risks and steps to contain the spread of the virus.
“I think that is important and that is the kind of leadership that one will expect in this kind of circumstances. What we need at the moment is knowledgeable people that will join the team and contribute their quota to the fight against Ebola virus. This is the time for all the health workers who are specialist in this case to join us so that we can overcome this issue,” he stated.
In an earlier briefing, the state commissioner for Health, Jide Idris, said 61 persons had so far been screened and cleared but that a major challenge remains personnel with requisite expertise.
He called for experts in different medical fields including critical care and infectious diseases to volunteer themselves for training in order to help arrest the situation.
Idris said contrary to the rumour making the rounds that the infection control facility has no basic amenities, it has a 40 bed-complex with male and female wards for confirmed cases; eight bed isolation wards upgraded for suspected cases, and two emergency tents to hold additional 24 suspected cases, a dedicated borehole and a 60 KVA generator, among others.
He pointed out that the mass fear about the disease was harmful, stressing that “only visibly ill patients can spread the disease” and that spread requires direct contact.