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Coronavirus: NMA rejects FG’s importation of Chinese doctors

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The Nigeria Medical Association on Sunday rejected the Federal Government invitation of Chinese doctors into the country to help fight COVID-19, describing it as embarrassing.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, had on Friday during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 announced that a Nigeria Air Force plane would depart for China to bring more response supplies, adding that 18-man Chinese medical experts would also arrive in Nigeria soon.

In a statement signed by the president of the NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, the association said it received the news with dismay and utter disappointment, especially at a time when its members were making a huge sacrifice to respond to the deadly disease despite the absence of adequate Personal Protective Equipment to work with in hospitals.

NMA warned that coronavirus death toll in Italy rose after Chinese medical experts arrived in the country to offer assistance.

NMA said, “It is a thing of embarrassment to the membership of the association and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions and a fragile health system to be subjected to the ignominy of not being carried along in arriving at such a decision.

“The lack of Personal Protective Equipment, grossly inadequate test kits and test centres across the country, and the absolute lack of any form of insurance for the workforce are primordial issues begging for attention at this time.

“We are therefore profoundly dismayed to learn that the Federal Government is instead inviting the Chinese who from available accounts are not out of the woods themselves. The spike in cases and the death toll from COVID-19 in Italy coincided with the arrival of the Chinese in the guise of offering assistance. Even the United Nations has only just recently commended the efforts of Nigeria so far.”

The statement noted that 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 said that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian should be consulted to grant necessary approvals to foreigners to interact with Nigerian patients.

NMA added that:]

“The association is aware of a large pool of general medical and specialist practitioners who are either unemployed or underemployed that can be engaged instead of bringing foreigners who aside from national security concerns, may not be conversant with our culture, terrain and peculiar challenges.

“The association believes that this invitation is ill-timed and of no overbearing significance considering that whatever experiences the Chinese have can be shared by digital technology through conferencing bearing in mind that Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu (NCDC Director General) has only just returned from China. We are not averse to the donation of equipment and supplies because we can always do with such support.

“In rejecting the invitation of the Chinese doctors, the NMA would instead urge the FG to review and approve better welfare incentives to the frontline medical personnel. The provision of adequate PPE, opening and properly equipping more isolation centres and health facilities across the country are excellent steps.”

The NMA also called on FG to expand the Presidential Task Force to include other critical stakeholders including journalists and the civil society to ensure more robust engagement, stressing that the decisions of the task force had implications for the health, wealth and security of Nigeria.

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It said that if the FG went ahead to bring in the Chinese doctors, it would amount to disservice to the morale of the long-suffering frontline health workforce.

“We fail to see how the 18 man team would impact the current efforts in any significant way. The association however expects that government would rescind the decision in the overall interest of the country.

“The NMA would loathe reviewing her participation in the fight against COVID-19 considering the grave implications and the risk to the lives of her members should government go ahead with this ill-thought-out invitation at this time,” the statement added.

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