CAUTION AS LOCKDOWN IS GRADUALLY LIFTED
The Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria wishes to commend the federal government for the proactive measures taken so far to curtail the spread of the dreaded Corona virus in Nigeria. The lockdown imposed on Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory went a long way to check the spread of the virus. This obviously contributed to the fewer cases reported during the lockdown. We equally appreciate states that also imposed lockdown in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus. Most of all, we commend the Nigerian people for their huge sacrifices, doggedness and resilience while the lockdown lasted.
COVID 19 caught the whole world unprepared and despite all the government of Nigeria has done to curtail the spread of the disease, the virus still found its way into the community with the attendant increase in new cases and death.
- Now that the government is embarking on phased easing off of the lockdown, it is extremely important that the guidelines as specified by government be strictly followed by the population to curtail further spread of the virus. We hereby call on the Nigerian people to cooperate fully with the government and observe the newly released guidelines aimed at curtailing further spread of the virus.
- We particularly agree with mass wearing of face masks by everyone in public places as a means of curtailment while still observing other precautions like social distancing, good hand hygiene and so on in order to slow down community transmission. Cloth face mask is encouraged as against surgical masks so as not to further worsen the shortage of surgical facemask as it is currently being experienced.
- We are of the opinion that there is need to step up community testing of the population with a view to ascertaining the actual number of carriers of the virus and isolate such before more damage is done to the population. The current method of testing using conventional procedure has served well, but with onset of community transmission, mass testing using rapid diagnostic test kits has become inevitable. We implore the government to borrow a leaf from the American Model where the government recently gave approval for community pharmacists to serve as testing centres for the populace to ensure that most people in the population are screened for the disease. Nigeria boasts of community pharmacies in every state of the federation and co-opting them into COVID testing programme will serve to reach the bulk of the population within a very short time.
- While commending the federal government for rolling out incentives for healthcare workers including increase in hazard allowance and provision of insurance cover for healthcare workers, we are however alarmed to hear that 113 healthcare workers in Nigeria were already infected with the disease as at 30th of April, most of them in the private sector. This number of infections is highly unacceptable; we are complaining of Nigeria not having adequate number of healthcare workers and now this. All hands must be on deck to protect the lives of our healthcare providers.
- We must avoid the experiences of countries in Europe and America that lost hundreds of healthcare workers including pharmacists, medical doctors, nurses and others to COVID-19. Provision of personal protective equipment most especially face masks (not cloth masks) and hand gloves on a massive scale for healthcare workers including pharmacists in all government hospitals has become inevitable. Same goes for pharmacists in community service who are usually the first port of call in the community by all manner of patients, including carriers of COVID-19 and even those with active disease in extreme cases.
- There are concerns about the safety of hospital pharmacists as some of them wear the cloth masks when interfacing with patients because of inadequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs). The Association hereby makes an appeal to the government on behalf of our members for urgent action to make the appropriate facemasks available.
- We implore healthcare workers in private practice- medical doctors and pharmacists to assume a high index of suspicion in dealing with patients that patronize their services. Every patient should be handled as if he has the active disease and as such must be fully kitted with PPEs in attending to their patients. We encourage them to refer all patients with high temperatures and other symptoms of COVID-19 to the NCDC or other testing centres nearest to them.
- With the lifting of the lockdown by the federal government, use of hand sanitizers on a regular basis by the population has become inevitable. Luckily, Nigerian pharmacists including hospital based pharmacists in teaching hospitals and other places have risen to the occasion and produced large quantities of hand sanitizers but these are inadequate to serve a population of two hundred million people. We call upon the government to as a matter of urgency approve importation of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) necessary for the manufacture of hand sanitizers into the country by pharmacists in hospitals and Pharmaceutical industry. These industries have capacity to produce face masks here in Nigeria if the ingredients for manufacture are made locally available. The cost of surgical face masks is currently too exorbitant and government will need to intervene to subsidize costs of importation while encouraging plans for local manufacturing.
- Timeliness is key in this type of challenge and emergency we face with this COVID -19. One strategy that Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) can employ to increase its testing capacity apart from the other strategies it has employed is direct involvement of Community Pharmacists in identifying patients who need to be tested as stated above. Of course it is important that these community pharmacists be adequately trained by the NCDC on COVID-19 testing before commencement. NCDC should work with these pharmacists in getting contacts of clients who presented with symptoms of COVID-19 at the pharmacies.
- We wish to once again commend the federal government for incentives offered to healthcare workers. But the government needs to do more by making personal protective equipment available on large scale basis for all categories of healthcare workers. Pharmacists are willing and ready to make hand sanitizers and hand washing soaps available at affordable costs so long as we are able to access the relevant active pharmaceutical ingredients. We call on public spirited individuals to make face masks available to the populace as part of post lockdown measures to curtail the spread. Hand sanitizers should be made available, including portable size for use by individuals.
- We equally commend the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 ably led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health for measures taken so far to ensure the pandemic does not overwhelm the country.
- We wish to assure the government that pharmacists at all levels-manufacturing, community, academia and hospital are ready to partner with government to ensure continuous supply of hand sanitizers for preventive use by the Nigerian people, in addition to making sure that drugs currently in use to treat the virus are continually available for use.
- We encourage efforts at research to produce a vaccine for the virus here in Nigeria.
We believe Nigeria will overcome this pandemic if all the measures suggested above are put in place.
May God bless Nigeria.
Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Amibor PharmD, MPH, FPCPharm
National Chairman AHAPN
Dr. Hafiz Ola Akande PharmD
National Secretary AHAPN