The Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, Abuja, Professor Sa’ad Ahmad, who is reputed to be among the few Medical personnel that dedicate their time in the fight against COVID-19, especially in Abuja, in this interview with Health Monitor, revealed his experiences and challenges encountered in the fight against the dreaded pandemic.

He also spoke on the lessons he, his colleagues and the government learnt in case of further outbreak of similar pandemic in the future. Below is the full interview anchored by the trio of Samson Yaki, Garba M. Muhammad and Zainab Atinuke Zakariyya.

The pandemic actually exposed some weaknesses in the health sector generally of which Nigeria is not an exception, but we have discovered areas of our weaknesses and I think to some extent, those areas are being strengthened so that subsequently, though we do not pray for such to happen again, but when it happens, we should be able to handle it with much more confidence than how it happened this time.

When the pandemic came, people were not expecting it to be that serious. The lockdown that followed suit also affected so many things including the health sector. It came at a time when health workers were not too knowledgeable about the virus itself and so a lot of issues came up. The first issue that bordered the health worker was how to protect him/herself, and the other thing was how to give services to patients while doing that. But we thank God we were able to manage that very well. We had a series of training in collaboration with the Centre for Disease Control on how to achieve that and it was a huge success.

Again, we engage in trials. When a patient comes into the hospital, we place the person on trial so as to determine the likelihood of the particular disease which symptoms the person is exhibiting. And through that we were able to reduce the risk of the pandemic; and it is good to know that only few of our staff had Covid throughout the pandemic.

I think the government did well. They were able to come up with PTF which actually responded to most of the needs of the health sector in terms of training and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as provision of funds. At present the government is establishing a molecular Laboratory virtually in every tertiary hospital in the country, strengthening Intensive Care Units and Isolation Units. On the side of the health worker, the hazards allowances have been paid and those that are outstanding will soon get paid. That has actually boosted the morale of the healthcare workers to put in their best on the line of their duty. The government has in fact done well and is still doing more to see that the pandemic is properly managed.

Generally, as earlier said, the pandemic came at a point when nobody expected it and it was a completely new virus that nobody understood until  basic researches were carried out, and are still going on, that we began to understand the virus. So far, much has been known about it but we are expecting much more research to understand it better, maybe in areas of vaccines and prevention. Meanwhile, in the meantime, we can do the basic thing to protect ourselves by washing our hands, wearing face masks, maintain social distances and the rest of them so as to stay safe. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, I believe, for now, we just have to live with it for a while.

Economically, the world has suffered because of the pandemic. Because of the lockdowns, a lot of companies had to close down while some layoff their staff. So the pandemic was quite a challenge that will take the world much time to recover. At the moment, especially in the West, there is a second wave of the pandemic. Sadly, it is going back the way it came, with more people going down, more deaths are being recorded; but in Nigeria, so far so good, I think our curve is still going down. We pray and hope that it will continue in that direction. We also plead with people to take the necessary precautionary measures in order to keep the curve down so that we will not have a resurgence of the pandemic.

It was quite challenging. I think the lockdown started shortly after I came in. I came in February and the lockdown started in March and that means the overhead remains the same but what we generate went down because we had to close down virtually the whole hospital and left only the emergency services to run. With that it was so difficult to manage, but we thank God we were able to pull through, and I think things are beginning to normalize now. Though we cannot say we are fully back to where we were before the pandemic, things are considerably okay now. We are now fully open to attend to every health challenge.

In fact the pandemic was a real challenge that we have never envisaged, but we are better informed now. Though we are not praying for it to come back but if for any reason we have similar things again, I think we have learnt so much from this that would enable us to give our best subsequently.

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