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Cross River doctors declare indefinite strike over ‘abandoned COVID-19 patients’

Taiwo Adebulu

The Cross River chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has withdrawn its services from all medical facilities in the state.

Cross River is the only state in the country where any case of COVID-19 has not been officially confirmed.

In a letter addressed to Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, on Sunday, Agam Ayuk, state chairman of the association, said the lives of the doctors are at risk over the COVID-19 situation in the state.

The association wondered why the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has not included Cross River in its daily update of COVID-19.

The association stated five positive cases recorded in the state had their tests done at an approved laboratory of the NCDC, yet their results have not been published in the agency’s situation report.

“The Association demands explanation from NCDC, why the five (5) COVID-19 confirmed cases from UCTH carried out at the NCDC accredited Molecular Laboratory at Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, have not reflected in the daily situation report of NCDC long after results had been transmitted to UCTH since July 1, 2020. Congress demands update of the NCDC situation report as a matter of urgent public health interest,” the association said.

“Congress demands explanations from NCDC, why epidemiology code numbers have to be generated by Cross River State Ministry of Health before results of samples sent by UCTH to an NCDC approved Molecular Laboratory can be published by NCDC despite having approved UCTH as an independent Test Centre.

“The NCDC is put on notice that the Cross River State Government has abdicated her responsibility of contact tracing, treatment and care for the five (5) confirmed cases which may not be unconnected with the delay in publication of the results by NCDC.

“The members of the Association and residents of Cross River State have been put in a precarious public health and safety situation due to the confusion and uncertainty created by the delayed updating of the results by NCDC.

“Congress demands explanation from NCDC why despite several complaints of compromised testing in the State, investigations have not commenced on the unethical activities carried out by Cross River State COVID-19 Task Force.”

The association also passed a vote of no confidence on Betta Edu, the commissioner for health, over alleged unethical handling of COVID-19 testing in the state.

Last week, Ikpeme Ikpeme, chief medical director of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), had announced that five patients tested positive for COVID-19 in the hospital.

But the state government accused him of spreading falsehood. Ben Ayade, the governor, had repeatedly said efforts made by his administration has prevented a COVID-19 outbreak in the state.

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