The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have urged the federal government to halt its plan to invite an 18-man Chinese team of medical experts to assist the country in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).
They described the move as ill-timed and embarrassing, stating it undermines efforts and expertise of frontline healthcare workers risking their lives every day to keep the country safe.
The associations said that they might be forced to review participation and withdraw their members from all public health facilities in the country if the government proceeds with the plans.
The President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, made this known in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.
According to him: “The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) received the news of the intention of the Federal Government of Nigeria to invite Chinese doctors into the country at this time of a global pandemic with great dismay and utter disappointment.
“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 (PPE), 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 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 the Government go ahead with this ill-thought-out invitation at this time.
“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 NMA explains that instead of inviting the Chinese into the country, whatever experiences the they have can be shared by digital technology through conferencing, bearing in mind that Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has only just returned from China.
It also stressed that the government did not put into consideration the extant laws regulating the practice of medicine in the country, especially when it failed to consult with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigerian (MDCN) to grant necessary 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 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.
“We are not averse to the donation of equipment and supplies because we can always do with such support as even the developed countries receive support.
“In rejecting the invitation of the Chinese doctors, the NMA would instead urge the Federal Government to review and approve better welfare incentives to the frontline medical personnel.
“The provision of adequate personal protective equipment, opening and properly equipping more isolation centres and health facilities across the country is an excellent first step. Deploying more resources to facilitate testing as we are beginning to witness community transmission of COVID 19 is equally a better application of scarce resources.
“The NMA urges the Government to expand the Presidential Task Force to include other critical stakeholders including journalists and the civil society to ensure more robust engagement especially as the decisions of the task force has implications for the health, wealth and security of our country.
“It is a great disservice to the morale of the long-suffering frontline health workforce if the Government goes ahead to invite these Chinese doctors. The invitation demeans their sacrifices so far in this pandemic. We fail to see how the 18-man team would impact the current efforts in any significant way.
“The Association, however, expects that the Government would rescind the decision in the overall interest of the country”.
President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr Sokomba Aliyu, in a statement also said: “The Association is in indeed puzzled that the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health would be contemplating such an adventure without firstly discussing it with the key and relevant stakeholders like the Nigerian Medical Association; our parent body; and all her relevant affiliates that parade some of the world’s best hands in all fields of endeavor.
“We find it rather curious that our Government would contemplate to throw open her international borders to Chinese nationals having watched how similar action in Italy proved socio-economically suicidal.
“Nigeria is about one fifth of the population of the African continent and currently the world has watched with awe, the very slow rate of case fatality arising from COVID 19 in Africa and is yet to understand, explain, covet or undermine that possible genetic advantage.
“The crafty Chinese scientists should the last group of friends to trust at this time given how unreliably and covertly they have managed the information around the pandemic beginning from the data around its origin, characteristics, and other virulence features to help the nations yet to experience the surge to be better prepared.
“We should not lose sight of the fact that conspiracy theories have it that COVID 19 is a possible tool for both sociopolitical and economic manipulation and domination. Nigeria is too important in the African continent to act any carelessly in the face of this emerging but portent threat to human existence.
“NARD shall not contemplate further warning to distance herself from the Chinese adventure by way of withdrawing all her members from every public health facility in Nigeria so that the anticipated downturn in the output of Nigeria’s healthcare service delivery can be properly situated and traceable to the Chinese as is the case today in Italy”.