It is welcome development, but… — NMA, NARD & PSN

Unacceptable to us — Lab scientists

Disparity is only snag — NUAP

COVID-19: Health professionals differ over insurance policy

By Chioma Obinna

Reactions have continued to trail the life insurance provided by the Federal Government and the Nigerian insurance industry for 5,000 frontline health workers in the fight against COVID-19 in the country.

While some of the health professionals described it as a welcome development, others who felt some of the professionals were discriminated against in the life insurance policy, said the exercise lacks uniformity as infectious agents affect every health worker equally.

Reacting to the development, the National President of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, NUAP, Dr. Obinna Ogbonna said the life insurance lacks uniformity.

Ogbonna who said the life insurance policy was a welcome development and was glad that the government has finally yielded to their earlier demand said the only snag in it was the disparity introduced in the exercise.

“The government would have done well in having a uniform life insurance package for all health workers who are infected and died as a result of coronavirus infection on the line of duty. Recently as reported in one of our teaching hospitals, a patient was brought in for surgery and after the surgery, a few days later he developed respiratory distress.

“On testing him, he was coronavirus positive. All the doctors, nurses, ward maids, and cleaners present in that theatre doing the surgery are all under isolation now which buttresses my earlier point that everyone is at risk in the hospital environment if you are in the frontline.

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“All health workers at this point in time are equally exposed to the coronavirus due to our work environment. Whether you are a medical laboratory scientist, Dietician, Physiotherapist, Pharmacist, Health information manager, medical practitioner, Nurses, etc.  Even the cleaner who will dispose of the wastes is also at risk.

“Flat rate to all involved would have been fair and equity could have been maintained.  Many of my members’ morale is boosted to go all out now to do their best in curbing or containing the COVID-19 pandemic.“

He urged the government not to relent on her efforts in restructuring or galvanising the health sector infrastructurally in the area manpower development and supply of modern equipment/medical technologies to meet the challenges of new emerging disease conditions.

For the National Publicity Secretary, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN. Dr. Ifeanyi Casmier, the life insurance policy is discriminatory and unacceptable to the Laboratory scientists who are more susceptible to infection.

According to him, a closer look at the offer makes them feel that the government was not sincere and responsible for the crisis in the health sector.

“When death from an infective agent affects a health worker it does not discriminate whether with permanent disability life-threatening condition or death.   That particular infective agent or harm accessioned by the exposure does not discriminate.   The Federal Government of Nigeria in taking an insurance policy has discriminated against some health workers.”

He said in insurance every life is equal.  For you to take out insurance and you said that a physician will get N3 million, Pharmacists and nurses will get N2 million and others will get N1 million and no mention of the medical laboratory scientists in the entre policy, is regrettable and unfortunate as well as unacceptable.

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He said: “The part flow of intervention across the globe against COVID19 and adopted in Nigeria are your test, you isolate and you treat, You find out that the healthcare professional in the impact flow which means the health professionals in the frontline are medical laboratory scientists.   When you are talking about the frontline, you don’t talk about people in the backline. Treatment is in the back end.”

He said the discrimination in the health sector was being driven by the fact that the Minister of Health, the Minister of State for Health, and the Labour Minister are all physicians. He urged commissioners of the insurance to rightly advise the government against what he described as ‘kangoro’ insurance policy.

He likened the policy to the Hazard Allowance proposed to be paid to healthcare workers in Lagos, saying, it is another short-changed and injection of bad blood by government.

Stating that President Muhammadu Buhari has not withheld approval for any proposal whatsoever that will help Nigeria in curbing and containing the COVID-19, he said lab scientists condemn the conspiracy against other healthcare workers in Nigeria.

“It is unacceptable; Nigerians should join us and condemn this.   Healthcare professionals in Nigeria have shown enough patriotism without asking questions or making demand right from the index case.  Even in Lagos, where they were paid March allowances,  I know that Governor Sanwo-Olu will not like what happened.   Doctors were paid N720,000, Nurses were paid  N420,000, the medical laboratory scientists that are going to the nooks and crannies of the state for case search, taking samples and analysing same, were paid a paltry N200,000.   What is the template? What informed the template? What are the criteria?

He added that the hazard payment as approved by the Salary and Wages Commission was flat rate across the board.

“We insist that every remuneration concerning COVID-19 allowance or whatever must be on a flat rate because the impact is equal, it is not discriminatory, the harm is the same. We are worried that well over 40 health workers have tested positive to COVID-9 including a WHO worker in Bauchi that is to tell you the degree of susceptibility and the worst susceptibility is people are the medical laboratory scientists but you can see that in the entire insurance policy they were not mentioned. The National President, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile,  said the insurance policy was a welcome development and one of the life insurance policies the federal government has activated for civil servants.

Faduyile explained that the government had told them that they have activated two policies, the Employers Compensation Act of the federal republic and the one that the government will be paying through the Nigerian social insurance Act which the federal government was yet to pay its part of the policy.

According to Faduyile, one of the policies was for any worker who is with the Federal government and has any work-related death.  He said the worker would be getting 200 percent of his or her annual payment.

He said under the Employers Compensation Act of the Federal Republic, the government will be training the children of the insuree up to 21 years.  Those are the two insurances they said they have activated.

“We have not seen the details they have for the isolation and treatment centres.   The policy is for those working in isolation centres.  Like I said earlier, those insured funds are not enough for such workers and the government promised to work on it.”

READ ALSO: HEALTHCARE FUNDING: COVID-19 exposes govts’ failures

On his part, the National President, Association of the Resident Doctors, NARD, Dr. Sokumade Aliyu, said NARD has always advocated for the life insurance policy for all Doctors and Healthcare workers in Nigeria but a comprehensive life insurance policy that covers all Work-related hazards, COVID-19 inclusive would have been better.

According to him, they are concerned about the new terminology ‘ Front line Healthcare workers’, restricting the insurance to COVID 19 victims as well as restricting the numbers of beneficiaries, etc.

“It is our position however that all healthcare workers on the assumption of duty are entitled to a comprehensive life insurance policy that covers all work-related hazards, COVID-19 inclusive. We will get the details of this package, study it carefully, and make our position known,” he added.

The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Pharm Sam Ohuabunwa said it was a good development.

“This should cover many of the health workers fighting the COVID-19 from the public sector angle, more so in the Federal government employment.  Good start but we need to cover all not covered by the insurance companies. Every employer is mandated to cover their employees for life and injury.”


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