The Cross River Branch of the Nigeria Medical Association, (NMA CRS) has debunked claims by the health commissioner, Betta Edu, that the State has over 105 medical doctors in active duty, clarifying that only 33 doctors are in the State’s civil service.
In a statement released on Wednesday, signed by the NMA’s state chairman, Agam E. Ayuk and state secretary, Ezoke Epoke, the medical body said Edu’s claim is misleading and a misrepresentation of a critical issue adversely affecting healthcare delivery in Cross River State.
It disclosed that 33 doctors and not 105 are in the state’s civil service, adding that the doctors are also paid lesser salaries than their counterparts in other states.
According to NMA CRS, doctors in the State’s civil service earn only about 50 percent of what other doctors across the country earn, making Cross River the only state in the country that pays the least salaries to doctors.
The poor pay makes retainment of critical workforce difficult, the association said.
NMA CRS, therefore, urged the government to do the needful by addressing human capacity lapses in the State’s medical sector, especially in this COVID-19 period.
The medical body commended the State Government for shutting its borders and reducing the chances of coronavirus transmission into the state.
It, however, warned that the State Government’s policy on the use of face masks as sole protection against the virus is dangerous.
It advised that such a policy will lure the citizens of the State into a false sense of security.
It cited the World Health Organisation (WHO) Interim Guidance, which classifies the use of face masks alone as protection against COVID-19 as insufficient and that facemasks are complementary to social/physical distancing of at least 1 meter.
The recommended action according to WHO is that people avoid mass gatherings, observe effective hand and respiratory hygiene and the cleaning of all contact surfaces.
NMA CRS also criticized the State Government for issuing an order requiring all civil servants from Grade level 10 and above in the state to resume work, describing the action as ill-timed and not in the best public interest of the people.
“The primordial/primary prevention strategy of the State Government is obviously the cheapest, safest and best strategy to adopt considering our peculiar challenges, but could be derailed by this mass resumption of staff that constitutes almost 50% of the workforce. We advise other means of getting critical sectors to work while avoiding mass gatherings because of the risk posed by asymptomatic carriers of the virus and without resources for mass testing of the population,” the statement read in part.
The statement also addressed the lack of an isolation center. According to NMA CRS, the State has only a 4-bed capacity isolation unit at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, (UCTH), which is ill-equipped.
“UCTH Isolation Centre lacks basic facilities, equipment, and accessories based on NCDC specifications. The patient capacity of the UCTH Isolation Centre is grossly inadequate.”