Following the detection of the first case of the novel Coronavirus disease and the placing in quarantine of the patient, identified as a 44-year-old Italian, at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos, a health worker at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, said on Friday that the patient was angry and attempted to escape, given the state of the isolation centre.
The high ranking health worker, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity on Friday, decried the ‘very poor quality’ of the isolation centre, lamenting that “the authorities have not matched words with action.”
Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Obafemi Hamzat, had said on Friday that the state government had built a facility to handle the situation, adding that the patient was getting better.
He said, “It is a lab that we built that can accommodate 100 for now but it is only one bed that is occupied today. Hopefully it wouldn’t spread. We are ready and we are well equipped. He (the patient) is there and he is getting better. He is steady. The doctors say he is going to be fine.’’
But the health worker told our correspondent that the Coronavirus index case had been “very upset about” the surrounding, adding that the patient “complained of excessive heat and mosquitoes.”
In an interaction with our correspondent, the health worker, who did not wear any personal protective equipment required of workers in such an environment, said, “The patient wanted to run away yesterday (Friday). The Italian man, who seems to be an engineer, was very angry that the room where he was kept was very hot.
“There is nothing there (inside the isolation ward) aside from bed and hospital locker. He almost ran away and is still threatening to do that.
The source said the level of preparedness in Lagos State for infectious diseases such as Coronavirus and Lassa fever “is zero.”
An online entry describes the Mainland Hospital, where the Italian is being quarantined, as “an ultra-modern multi-drug resistant tuberculosis treatment centre, with a 40-bed admission facility.”
Our source, who emerged from the Out Patient Department of the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, alleged that Lagos State did not have the facility to accommodate individuals who might have come in contact with the Italian.
According to the source, the facility that is meant to accommodate both suspected and confirmed Coronavirus cases is still undergoing renovation “and might take a while” before it can function fully.
He also revealed that the isolation area was a room in one of the wards, and that it was quickly vacated to accommodate the index case.
The source alleged, “The only thing demarcating the room from other rooms in the ward is a red and white barricade tape. That is where the Italian man that tested positive to Coronavirus is kept.
“There is no single equipment inside that place. It is just like any other regular hospital room with a bed. That building you see that is being repainted is the original place meant to quarantine Coronavirus patients.
“As you can see, the place is not ready. The state government is just renovating it, despite the fact that the virus started spreading since December 2019. It is really sad that a country like Nigeria is never ready to medically contain infectious disease outbreak.
“This is why most health workers leave because they are predisposed to danger of infection.”
According to the source, the Mainland Hospital does not have a ready and designated facility to isolate and treat Lassa fever patients, much less Coronavirus. The source noted that the place earmarked for Lassa fever treatment had yet to be completed.
The source said, “The place meant for Lassa fever patient has been under construction in the past one month. It is not yet completed. As you can see, they are makeshift structures, hurriedly put together with white tarpaulin.
“They are not permanent structures and I don’t know how this place can actually accommodate humans that have a highly infectious disease like Lassa fever,” he said.
The health worker noted that despite the fact that the state government had been able to track some persons that had had contact with the index Coronavirus patient, they could not be quarantined, allegedly because the state lack requisite facility.
The source added, “The standard medical operational procedure is to track all contacts and have them quarantined to avoid further spread of the virus. But we cannot do that here because we lack such facility, which is why there is emphasis on self quarantine.
“Even where the Italian man is presently being isolated was a room vacated by a patient. I pray God saves us in the coming months because we are not ready for the danger posed by the Coronavirus.”
Another health worker in the hospital, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the patient was being isolated in Ward C.
The source said, “When the Italian was brought here, he was taken immediately to a room for isolation. He is there and we are still expecting more in the coming days.”
A nurse at the facility, who appeared unconcerned by the situation on the ground, was seen walking out of the isolation area without wearing personal protective equipment.
When asked why she was not wearing a face mask and gloves, she answered our correspondent with a tinge of sarcasm; “What is coronavirus?” she asked.
“Gloves and face masks cannot do anything. We have been working here for years with people that have deadly diseases. At last, all of us will die,” she quipped as she walked away.