On Saturday, a patient died at FMC, Lokoja, Kogi State, after exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. His samples weren’t taken. That was the fourth such death at that FMC last week alone. Not once was the patient’s samples taken, dead or alive. A familiar cover-up
March 22 was the first time this scenario occurred. A patient who came into Kogi from Lagos required a CS. The patient exhibited COVID-19 symptoms, prompting the hospital to request for her to be tested. It was turned down. The patient was isolated for some time, surgery was done and she was discharged without testing.
Last week, there were some patients in the O&G ward who manifested respiratory issues, inability to breathe and other COVID-19 symptoms. Three of them died. They’d come from private hospitals — one in Lokoja, another in Okene and the third in Ogudu.
The first of the trio, Mrs GI (her initials), a 43-year-old woman who arrived at the hospital on Thursday, had a temperature of 38.8°C. The other two had temperatures of more than 40°C. In each case, no sample was taken before or after death.
Now, on the final day of the week, a patient admitted to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Ward with a temperature of 40.3°C was transferred to the male medical ward. The patient spent three hours in the ward and then died. One more patient exhibited potential COVID-19 symptoms on Sunday but moves for sample collection were futile; by yesterday, the patient was dead.
I’ve been told there are more suspected cases, but these were the ones I personally tracked. Ideally, the FMC ought to notify the Ministry of Health of the need for sample collection if it suspects a case, but the ministry needs to secure the authorization of the Incident Manager, that is the Commissioner for Health, who directly relates with the NCDC. If the Commissioner says no, end of request! Meanwhile, state hospitals are not even in a position to call the health ministry.
I understand the instruction from Governor Yahaya Bello is that there should be no testing. I know the question you want to ask and I’ll answer it: Why would the state government want to hide COVID-19 cases? There may be many reasons but I’m sure of three, so far:
1. None of the three isolation centres — at SDG/FAREC Clinic, the Kogi State Diagnostics Centre and the Maimuna and Usman Yahaya Foundation Hospital — is ready for use. A patient can’t be taken into any of them. The only ready space is at Kogi State Specialist Hospital, Lokoja, where Lassa Fever cases were once managed. And it has only four beds. Not four wards — four beds! All are just building structures, no equipment at all for the doctors to work with. The diagnostics centre is a private facility donated to the state several years ago, but the 100-bed structure is an ongoing project that has spanned three executive governors and doesn’t even have power supply!
2. I understand the state has no money to give the people as lockdown palliatives, should there be the need to restrict their movement. But many in Kogi aren’t asking for palliatives; they just want their salaries, which the government is making moves to halve. It is unclear why there is no money, as the Bello administration hasn’t executed a single project since its reelection in May 2019 apart from payment of salaries. Despite receiving increased federal allocation of late due to a temporary halt of bailout deductions, the state government was going to pay workers only 50% of their salaries in March but the union stood its ground. April salaries haven’t been paid because of this ongoing disagreement.
3. For whatever reason, the state government believes the NCDC has politicised COVID-19 cases such that if samples are sent, they will automatically return +ve. It is a reason that defies logic, actually, but it exists all the same.
Kogi has blatantly REFUSED to test. Lots of medical experts agree that “it is a lie to say the state does not have COVID cases”, but scientifically, no one can put a figure to it.
The FMC has been warned that if it breaches protocol by sending anyone’s samples to the NCDC, it would be shut down on the pretext of exposure to the virus.
For that the reason, the state and hospital officialdom will counter this story with all they have, rather than make amends, but the hope will be that Kogi won’t go the way of Kano before making a U-turn.