On the 6th of April, 2020 while giving update about the efforts of Ogun State Government in flattening the curve of coronavirus in the State, Governor Dapo Abiodun without being prompted, promised “bumper” palliative packages for the COVID-19 frontline health workers in the State.
The correspondent from Daily Independent newspaper, Mr Suliaman Fasasi asked the Governor to reveal the content of the proposed package.
Governor Dapo Abiodun said he is keeping the details to his heart and joke with journalists that they should change their profession if they intend to enjoy the special packages.
The Governor made this promise and our general amnesia will not let us remind His Excellency that he should fulfil this promise.
17 days after the Governor made this promise, I was completely relieved of my amnesia when I read a news report that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has increased the hazard allowance of Lagos health workers by 400% while Dr Chris Ngige also revealed plans by the Federal Government to pay hazard allowances to frontline health workers employed by the Federal Government.
I immediately contacted some front line health workers in Ogun State to confirmed whether they have received the “bumper” welfare package the Governor promised them.
Some of the front line health workers were not even aware of such promises let alone the special welfare package.
This is the time Governor Abiodun must match words with action by fulfilling his promise for the essential workers in Ogun State particularly the health workers who are risking their lives to make indigenes and residents of the state safe from the dreaded virus.
These frontline healthworkers need motivation to enable them feel sense of belongings.
They are best fit into one of the most vulnerable to contract COVID-19 given the nature of their job.
Already, some of the front line healthworkers in Nigeria have been infected with reports of death of several of them from coronavirus in other countries.
According to Dr Abayomi Olajide the immediate Past Chairman of Nigerian Medical Association Ogun State branch said that we are currently living in perilous times going by the slow rate of response of government to this pandemic.
Dr Olajide who is the Chairman of National NMA Mental Health Committee, expressed worry that a total test of less than 10,000 within about 2months of Corona pandemic for a population of about 201 million Nigeria speaks volume about our level of preparedness for this pandemic.
He added that emotional and psychological sequelae of this Covid 19 is another major disaster yet to be unleashed and we are not yet planning for how to prevent such challenges coupled with the rebound effects of economic downturn, sociopolitical adversities and security challenges.
There is no need for advocacy for the hazard allowance of this health workers to be increased. It is be done without any prompting.
The Federal Government has demonstrated leadership by announcing the increase in hazard allowance of the health workers, providing health insurance for them and deliberation on tax exemption for the health workers as a way of motivating them. Lagos state has equally announce theirs and expectedly the Gateway State is yet to do the needful.
Time is of essence and we must demonstrate our commitment to the campaign promises of Governor Dapo Abiodun.
Frontline Health workers must be provided with adequate working tools to protect them from being infected with COVID-19. This type of motivation will discourage further brain drain of our committed health workers and exodus to developed countries.
Already, the front line healthworkers are getting overwhelmed as the figures skyrocket in the face of poor welfare from government and her agencies.
For example in Ogun State, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported that the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the State jumped from 12 to 20.
A more worrying scenarios happened in Lagos and Kano State where we have geometrical increase in the case of confirmed cases of coronavirus disease in the States.
As government invest in procurement of drugs, test kits, Molecular laboratories, and other essentials, it must also invest in the welfare of health workers who put their lives at risk daily to combat this pandemics.
An alumnus of the state university (Olabisi Onabanjo University) and Research Fellow at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Adegboyega Taofeek has equally urged the state government to expedite action on the accreditation of the molecular laboratory awaiting commissioning at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH) by the NCDC.
Dr Adegboyega described prompt diagnosis as a significant step in containing the spread of the virus in the Federation (Ogun being the gateway state).
“Also of importance are the provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), tax incentives (for more than three months) and prompt payment of salaries and allowances as additional motivation drives to support the on-going advocacy. If these are implemented, the state and the nation will come out of the current challenge, stronger and better in combating future outbreaks.”
The danger of neglecting these professionals will spell doom for our state and could defeat all the successes recorded so far in containing the spread of the virus in our dear state and Nigeria as a whole.
Already, there are reports in some States, the death of some patients who made themselves available for treatments for unspecified ailments, but the healthworkers decided not to attend to them for fear of contracting the deadly coronavirus disease.
The government must be commended for the efforts made so far but must also not wait till there will be widespread negligence of frontline health workers in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 if appropriate motivation is not provided.
The time to act is now!