How VIPs infected with COVID-19 frustrate govt’s efforts to contain disease

By our reporter.

Efforts by the Lagos State Government to stop the spread of Coronavirus and fight COVID-19 pandemic are being increasingly undermined by some rich individuals in society afflicted by the disease.

Ashamed to go to the public health facility at Yaba earmarked by the state government for the treatment of patients down with COVID-19, these coronavirus infected affluent members of society are resorting to treatment in private clinics, putting medics in such hospitals and whoever came in contact with them at risk.

The development has drawn the ire of the Lagos State Government which prompted the authorities to close down one of such private hospitals located on the Lagos Island. Sources told KaftanPost that most of these rich patients contracted the virus in London, the United Kingdom, after attending the 80th birthday celebrations of the Nigerian High Commissioner to Britain, Justice George Oguntade.

On their return to Nigeria via Virgin Atlantic flight in the 3rd week of March , they felt unwell and secretly took a Coronavirus test and the result was positive. It was gathered that instead of reporting their conditions to the health authorities in the state for them to be taken to the isolation/treatment centre at Yaba, they approached this popular hospital (name withheld) on the Island where they were treated and discharged.

Subsequently, they told their equally infected friends about the hospital which has been treating them, even providing home service through some of its nurses.

This development is now a source of concern for the government as the hospital is not equipped to handle cases of infectious diseases like COVID -19. In the process of getting treated in this private hospital, some medics and other staff get infected, as most of the medical staff, though versed in symptoms management and general prophylactic treatment are not familiar with the protocols of infectious disease hospitalization. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious and virulent coronavirus many of which characteristic and pathogenesis are just being discovered.

Observers believe that even though the government can do better with more rapid and extensive testing, treatment and isolation, when those who feel too privileged to be treated in public facilities hide and thereby spread the disease to others who in turn spread it far and wide in their communities, many who are in lockdown might still innocently catch the disease.

This particular hospital is a secret medical Mecca spread by whispers and hushed recommendations amongst the afflicted upper crust of Lagos who, for some inexplicable misconception, treat COVID-19 positive result as a stigma reminiscent of leprosy in ancient times, HIV/AIDS of recent time.

A source informed KaftanPost that a few of her family friends treated “successfully” at the said undesignated hospital has brought many more for discreet treatment. A majority of the illicit patients are resident in the highbrow Ikoyi, Banana Island and Victoria Island, many are well oiled enough to retain private nurses from the hospital to give additional home care, further exposing inexperienced nursing hands to the risks of infections.

In the case of a few returnees from the United Kingdom, two of whom had travelled to attend the tone deaf and ill-timed 80th birthday party of Justice Oguntade, the Nigerian High Commissioner, these party goers flew in by Virgin Air VS 651 from London third weekend in March 2020, and obviously circulated themselves all over the city until they became symptomatic one after another and had to be swiftly secreted into this notorious hospital. So they just went private quietly.

Our reporter gathered that the sloppiness of NCDC and Lagos State Health officials has contributed to many COVID-19 positive returnees slipping through the crack because even though many initially called NCDC numbers in panic and with a sense of emergency, the lacklustre and cavalier response from health agency allayed the fears of some regarding the seriousness of the disease.

Others who felt snubbed by NCDC even became more desperate and resorted to self-help and private treatment. The poor examples shown by high-level officials in Abuja and many state governors in adopting private hospitals for their own treatment unlike the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson who checked into the publicly-run St Thomas Hospital, gives the signal to the high and mighty caught in the web of COVID-19 to assume that the isolation ward at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Yaba in Lagos is for the down trodden masses.

A public health expert who agrees to speak to KaftanPost on condition of anonymity, being a serving medic at the Infectious Diseases Hospital Yaba, believes that the next stage in the anti-COVID-19 action plan which includes the door-to-door exercise will discover more positive patients at their homes and bring them within the public healthcare.

Our source believes that in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki and suburbs of Etiosa Local Government lie several hundreds to a few thousands who must be detected and properly treated if Lagos as the Nigerian Epicentre of COVID-19 must stem the tidal waves of the virus.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, the Commissioner of Police, the Nigerian Medical Association and the Association of Private Hospitals as well as pharmacists and nurses in Lagos must unite and issue a communique forbidding any health practitioner from treating any case of infectious diseases at home and in secret.

Asked as to whether the sufficiency of beds and facilities at the Isolation Centre can accommodate all the suspected cases if they show up in their thousands as now estimated, another source at the NCDC office in Lagos told KaftanPost that the state has enough facilities and is building more. She noted that if it comes to the usage of private hospitals, the government will be the first to approach the managements of selected private hospitals to take in as many positive patients as such hospitals can properly care for. Moreso, such hospitals have to be closed to the general public as infectious diseases wards are not supposed to mix with other aspects of medical facilities.

As to what can be done about hospitals that are harbouring upscale and elitist patients unofficially, especially on the islands of Lagos and those who resort to home service, our source advised that they must overcome whatever notions they hold about not wanting to go to isolation centres because of stigma because there is no bigger stigma than for anyone to carelessly or recklessly extinguish their entire family by infecting them with a deadly disease which the index patient might survive and become well but others in the family and neighbourhood could be swept away by the disease.

To avoid the painful waste of time and resources sacrificed during the lockdown, government and the people must unite in sincerity of purpose to wage a transparent war against the disease. Many in government know most of these friends of theirs who they trust to self-isolate but do not actually keep to their words in that front, the source said, adding, ‘it is dangerous, reckless and counterproductive when our bosses advise ordinary people on the street on what to do but cover up for their friends and acquaintances and encourage them to stay at home to spread the virus in the name of VIP care. These social lapses ultimately and eventually endanger the well-being and health of all persons whether positive, negative or recovered, our source surmised.