COVID-19: C’River NMA Withdraws Services, Refers Health Commissioner to Disciplinary Committee

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The Cross River State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has announced the total withdrawal of services from all private and public hospitals across the State over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, even as it passed a vote of no confidence on the Health Commissioner, Dr Beta Edu, and referred her to a disciplinary committee.

The NMA also chided the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for not reflecting the five (5) COVID-19 confirmed cases from the University of Calabar Teachung Hospital (UCTH) in its daily updates.

This decision was contained in a letter addressed to Minister of Health, dated July 5, 2020 with reference number NMA CRS/SG/2020/07/254 and titled ‘Notice of Withdrawal of Medical Services.’

The letter, which was signed by the State Chairman, Dr. Agam Ayuk and Secretary, Dr. Ezoke Epoke, and sighted by PillarToday on Sunday, read in part: “The Nigerian Medical Association Cross River State branch held an Emergency General Meeting on Sunday, July 5, 2020 to deliberate on the current issues of COVID-19 testing, surveillance, contact tracing, isolation, treatment and care in the State.

“The Association deeply appreciates the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Health through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) in declaring University of Calabar Teaching Hospital an Independent Test Centre and the eventual activation of University of Calabar Teaching Hospital Molecular Laboratory and Dr. Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital Calabar for COVID-19 PCR Testing. We sincerely thank them for this.

“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.

“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. Congress demands the immediate activation of Adiabo Isolation Centre and commencement of surveillance and contact tracing in the State. 

“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 passed a Vote of No Confidence on the Honorable Commissioner for Health – Dr. Betta Edu, and further referred her to the NMA National Disciplinary Committee and Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) for the unethical handling of COVID-19 testing in the State, thus putting lives at risk and bringing the Association to disrepute. 

“Arising from the meeting, all members of Nigerian Medical Association Cross River State branch in public and private hospitals have embarked on a total and indefinite withdrawal of medical services until NCDC and the State Ministry of Health give urgent and prompt attention to the issues raised.”

Recall that the Central Working Committee of Health Professionals in the State had earlier demanded that the Presidential Task Force, through the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, should investigate COVID-19 testing claims and results tendered so far in the state.

In a press statement signed by the NMA Chairman, the Health Professionals tasked the federal government to hold all those responsible for compromising testing in the state responsible, and demanded explanations on the whereabouts of over 25 samples it alleged was collected, stressing that the NCDC records only showed eight (8) samples from Cross River underwent PCR tests.

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