Health workers bemoan unpaid allowances

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Health workers at treatment centres for COVID-19 patients in the Federal Capital Territory have appealed to the Federal Government to recognize their efforts and sacrifices as front line personnel in the fight against Coronavirus in the country.

They said they are vulnerable to the virus as first responders to patients at the various treatment and isolation centres. They spoke in Abuja when the media team of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 visited some isolation centres and the National Reference Laboratory of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, Abuja, to celebrate Valentine’s Day with healthcare workers.

The Medical Superintendent at Thisday Dome Centre, Dr. Victor Molokwu evaluated the current situation of COVID-19 in the country and said figures at the centre and reports   received across the country indicated a reduction in new infections.

“It showed that Nigerians are taking responsibility, especially now that the government has put measures in place that they cannot enter places without face masks.

“And from what we are seeing here today, we don’t have much severe cases as it used to be between December 2020 and second week of January this year,” said Dr. Molokwu.

He warned that “COVID-19 is real” and urged all Nigerians to comply with established protocols by washing their hands frequently, wearing their face masks, keeping social distance and adhering to other non-pharmaceutical interventions.

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He decried the delay by the Federal Ministry of Health  in paying allowances of ad-hoc staff engaged to work at the isolation centre who were paid only twice since July 2020.

Manager of the centre, Mr Henry Nwachokor, said he comes to the centre at all times, including weekends, to keep tab on its activities.  “This has impact on me. For instance, I have not seen my wife for the past eight months. So, this is how it is and I hope people will continue to take responsibility. This will make things easier for us and the nation.,” said Nwachokor.

Dr Catherine Okoi, COVID-19 Laboratory Manager, NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja, said from the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, all staff at the agency have worked tirelessly to achieve testing for the virus through the rapid expansion of laboratories across the country and increase in surveillance activities.

“This is enabling the prompt detection of cases reported, even at our points of entry,” she explained but noted that with increasing transmission, test positivity rate and confirmed cases remain a course for concern as the country is now experiencing the second wave of Covid-19.

Okoi suggested a stricter enforcement and adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions including the proper use of face masks, frequent handwashing and maintaining physical distance of at least two meters.

“At NCDC, our operations are round-the clock. Even today as the world celebrates Valentine, we are here to serve our country to the best of our ability. Several colleagues across the country will be away from their loved ones on the field, strengthening the nation’s public health response to this pandemic,” said the lab manager.

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She noted that the National Emergency Operations Centre has maintained the steam since the beginning of the outbreak in supporting all states in their response strategy.

Mrs Ebere Ogbonna, Matron Duty Manager, National Hospital, Abuja, said health workers who are  treating COVID-19  patients work under very stressful conditions and their families are also at  the risk of getting infected.

Ogbonna called on the government to recognized their contributions and dedication to service by paying all their allowances on time.  “Therefore, their salaries and allowances should be paid promptly at the end of every month,” she advised.

The PTF on COVID-19 media crew, led by Mr. Tajudeen Kareem expressed admiration for    the sacrifices made by all healthcare professionals and assured them that their efforts are   always appreciated as patriotic citizens serving their country and humanity.