The move by the Federal Government to bring Chinese medical experts to help it check the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria has drawn the ire of local stakeholders. Health Minister Osagie Ehanire had announced last Friday that an “18-man team of Chinese medical experts including doctors, nurses and other medical advisers” would assist Nigeria in its fight against COVID-19.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), in a statement by its president, Dr. Francis AdedayoFaduyile, said the association received the report with great dismay and utter disappointment.
It described the plan as an embarrassment to members and other health workers fighting COVID-19 under deplorable conditions. This personnel should not have been subjected to the ignominy of not being carried along on such a decision, the NMA noted.
Doctors are profoundly dismayed to learn that the Federal Government is inviting the Chinese who from available accounts are not out of the woods themselves, said NMA.
It regretted that the government did not take into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in Nigeria as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act. It noted further that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should have been consulted to grant approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients.
The association is aware of a large pool of general medical and specialist practitioners who are either unemployed or underemployed. These could be engaged instead of foreigners who pose a risk to national security and may not be conversant with culture, terrain and peculiar challenges, the NMA said.
It stressed that the invitation is ill-timed and of no overbearing significance, considering that whatever experiences the Chinese have could be shared by digital technology through conferencing.
The NMA hoped that the government would rescind the decision in the interest of the country, warning that it would hate to review its participation in the fight against COVID-19 if the government goes ahead.
The association nevertheless affirmed its commitment to the Nigerian people and the government, expressing support for the efforts of its frontline health workers in containing the pandemic.
Similarly, the chairman of the Federal Capital Territory chapter, Dr Phillips Ekpe, warned: “We need to be careful of the Chinese coming into the country at this time. They seem not to have a good name. We are not sure of the value they are going to add. Our case is not severe and Nigerian doctors are doing very well.
“We learnt that it wasn’t the Federal Government that invited them; they are accompanying some medical equipment being donated to Nigeria. So, they are even uninvited. They should offload and go. There are so many conspiracy theories around this COVID-19. We need to be very cautious. We have so many doctors out there who are not employed. Government should engage them.”
He urged the government to use the COVID-19 opportunity to upgrade the nation’s healthcare facilities and motivate health workers at the frontline by increasing their hazard allowance from the current N5,000 to N200,000.
Also, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) said the country’s medical experts were already winning the battle against the pandemic and should, therefore, be encouraged and motivated, not distracted and demoralised.
A statement by NARD President Dr Sokomba Aliyu warned that Chinese scientists could not be trusted, given how unreliably and covertly they had allegedly managed information about the pandemic.
“Nigeria is too important in the African continent to act carelessly in the face of this emerging but potent threat to human existence. We need to holistically cross-examine the intent and purpose of the importation of the 18-man Chinese team.