By Chioma Obinna
As controversy trails, the non-availability of laboratory testing for COVID-19 in Kogi State, suspected cases of the disease are being seen in hospitals in the state even as doctors have lamented the inability to conduct tests.
The Chairman of the Kogi state branch of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr. Kabir Zubair, told Vanguard in an interview on Tuesday that the state NMA was not happy about the challenge over testing created by the state government.
Zubair said despite the increasing numbers of suspected cases, his colleagues cannot confirm any of the cases because laboratory tests are not ongoing.
“People are presenting with the symptoms of COVID-19, even though it may not be all the symptoms of the disease but the doctors are suspicious of COVID -19. And because we are not able to carry out tests we could not confirm all the suspicions. Everything ends at that level of suspicion.
“We have been on their neck to see how they will resume the tests but they are not collaborating in any way with NMA. What the state government has done is that they have been able to procure their own antigen test kits approved by the US Food & Drug Administration, FDA. That is the one they said that will be used to test any COVID-19 suspected case now even though the World Health Organisation, WHO, did not recommend the use of test kits of an antigen or antibody but for now, that is what we have and we will make do with it.”
Zubair said members of the Association of Resident Doctors, ARD, which is an affiliate of the NMA, and have become agitated and apprehensive in the last few months, due to community spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
He said suspected cases are being seen specifically at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC Lokoja which is also the only functional tertiary health institution in the State.
“As a clinician, standard practice demands that the moment you have a clinical suspicion of infectious diseases, the ideal thing is to carry out laboratory confirmation.
“COVID-19 is a highly contagious infectious disease, responsible for the ongoing global pandemic. In Nigeria, new cases are reported daily and community spread is accelerating. This is the reason why members of ARD are agitated as testing for COVID-19 has remained a challenge in the state,” he added.
On the level of involvement of the state NMA in the COVID 19 response in the state, he explained that the state government, its health personnel, and the state epidemiologists are the ones handling the tests.
Zubair who frowned at the level of preparedness against the disease in the state said: “We are not happy that the state is not testing but for the past two to three weeks, we have done the much we think we can do.
“We have reached out to some interest groups to see how the situation can be changed. We have done several publications online on the situation in Kogi, different health groups like the state Association of Resident Doctors, ARD has done a lot of publications about the situation in the state. We have also liaised with our national body to see how they can come to our aids.”
He said it was only last night that the state government was able to put up isolation and diagnostic centres with few beds and equipment inside.
“The government is just putting up small arrangements in place. Last week, the opened isolation and diagnostic centre that has few beds and equipment inside. They have also procured Personal Protective Equipment, PPEs. Most of the centres in the state also have PPEs and that is what they are using anytime they see suspected cases in the hospitals.
“We have been talking to the state Commissioner for Health, state epidemiologists and other government officials on the need to commence testing and that is the only the way the medical personal can put their minds at rest. We are hoping that they will listen to us and do the needful.”
He further debunked reports that more people are dying in the state. “There is no sudden increase in deaths so far so good. The mortuaries and burial grounds are running normal, no sudden increase in any way.”
According to the state by state breakdown of COVID-19 cases Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, daily situation report for COVID-19 released on May 17, 2020, Kogi state had carried out only one confirmatory test.