Says lockdown extension has no performance indicators
By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna
A renowned medical laboratory scientist and researcher, Dr. Casmier Ifeanyi has faulted the claim by the Federal Government that Nigeria has the capacity to carry out 1,500 COVID-19 tests per day, as announced by President Mohammadu Buhari in his lockdown extension speech presented on Monday.
Ifeanyi, who is the National Publicity Secretary, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, decried what he described as lack of performance indicators in the President’s lockdown extension speech.
His words: “Before now, we had expected an extension, Nigerians are not bothered about the extension, they are bothered that the extension should have performance indicators. In the last lockdown, we had no measurable indicators. they only told us a narrative of what transpired the last two weeks.
“They are asking us to lockdown again in the FCT, Lagos, Ogun, and others. But we are saying that you should tell us five objectives that at the end of the two weeks we can relate to.”
Daily testing capacity
On the issue of the nation’s daily testing capacity, Ifeanyi stated: “While I commend the President for what he has done, I beg to differ with the text of his address that says we can now do 1,500 tests per day.
We started in February and between the last week in February and the 12th of April, we were only able to do between 3000-5000 tests, so what magic wand has happened that can now make us deliver 1,500 tests per day?”
Further, Ifeanyi said: “If you listened to the Minister of Health today (Monday) and the National Coordinator PTF-COVID, Dr. Sani Aliu, they talked about how they have increased the number of labs to 11, but they were talking about being able to test samples sufficiently to fill those labs meaning, therefore, that there is a major lag on sampling processes and sample volume.
“So where is the sample volume coming from that gives us 1, 500 per day? Yes, we may have infrastructure that can deliver 1, 500 per day but that does not translate that we are now testing 1,500 per day,” he argued.
Ifeanyi also lamented the silence on the issue of hazard allowance for health workers.
“My major worry is about the controversies arising from the hazard allowance for frontline health workers particularly medical lab scientists.
The President is yet to get the PTF-COVID, the Ministry of Health, or the National Salaries and Wages Commission to be categorical as per what frontline health workers should get as hazard allowance.
“The President’s address did not speak to it, it only said that the package would is being developed, but we want to know, because they have patriotically shown commitment and call to duty, to protect their fatherland.
“We expect that with provisions being made amply for the NCDC, the PTF-COVID and the N500 million stimulus, those who are on the frontline must have insurance taken out for them and good hazard allowance paid out to them on a flat rate particularly medical lab scientists that are involved in contact tracing, testing, and sampling.
These are huge risk ventures. They have put themselves in harm’s way and the President, beyond words of appreciation, should give something tangible to support them.”
On the issue of palliatives, Ifeanyi argued that they were being politicised.
“We are still politicising the palliatives, there is nothing concrete for people and we have seen what happened over the last two weeks. “Nigerians are disappointed that the palliatives are shrouded in some form of controversy.
It does appear that the very poor are getting anything. Those that eke a living daily as recognised have nothing to look forward to. I just pray that armed robbery, banditry, and criminality are not going to take a high point in the next two weeks.
Training of health workers
On the claim by the federal government that it has trained 7,000 health workers, Ifeanyi disagreed.
“That I do not agree with, it is very doubtful. We volunteered 170 medical laboratory scientists, till date, as those in the apex of professional leadership in a medical laboratory in Nigeria, none of our members have been contacted for any form of training.
“Even those that we submitted their details as volunteers are yet to be reached out to.
All I know is that not more about 50 medical lab scientists were trained in the FCT and even afterward, they are yet to get good support for the work they are doing at the international press centre, so the training they are talking we do not know where it took place, those managing the president and giving feedback should know that they will give account on the day.