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SPECIAL REPORT: Inside Nigerian state where COVID-19 patients take commerical bikes, buses to recieve drugs

By Sodiq Adewale Chocomilo
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Osun state is in the league of top states with highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa, ranked 17th in Nigeria with 2236 confirmed cases, 658 cases on admission and 45 deaths as at Friday 8:42 am 19 February 2021.

Many people have wondered why the sudden rising of COVID-19 cases in the state. Many attributed the cause to careless flouting of COVID-19 protocols to government officials, party leaders and citizens but WITHIN NIGERIA reporter believes that the closure of some isolation centres in the state, making COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms roam freely and carelessly mix with people is also one of the causes of the rising COVID-19 cases in the state.

When COVID-19 struck Nigeria, Osun state was not spared. There was fear and concerns about the deadly virus in the state. At first, the state government was winning the war before 127 people came from Abidjan, Cote-devoire on Saturday, March 28 and more than 12 out of the 127 travellers tested positive. The incident which was not only controversial, worsened the situation, created tension and increased the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased in the state.

WITHIN NIGERIA gathered that at least 342 isolation beds and eight ICU-bed facility were set-up in the state. Findings revealed that the state government renovated and equipped three other isolation centres which include 130-bed facility in Ejigbo, 12-bed capacity in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, a 20-bed isolation centre and 8-bed Intensive Care Unit at State Specialist Hospital, Asubiaro, Osogbo.

Recall that the Executive Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola on Wednesday, May 2020 commissoned an isolation centre with 160 beds in Osogbo as part of efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic in the state. 100 out of the 160 beds were donated alongside equipment and consumables by the Coalition Against COVID-19 (Ca-COVID).

THE ISSUE

In September 2020, Osun State Government on Wednesday announced the shut down of its Mercy land 220-bed isolation centre as the state is on the verge of flattening the curve of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state government also directed that COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms should be isolated while COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms were advised to go on self-isolation with strict monitoring.

Following the closure of some isolation centres in the state, WITHIN NIGERIA gathered that some COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who were advised to self-isolate freely roam around Osogbo streets, visit the state hospital, Asubiaro via commerical buses popularly known as (Korope) and motorcycles to recieve drugs while those who have personal vehicles visit the hospital alone.

A 35-year-old man who prefers to be anonymous told WITHIN NIGERIA that truly some people covered with nosemasks normally come to the state hospital either with commercial motorcycles or personal vehicles to collect drugs. These drugs are for COVID-19 treatment.

Another resident of Osogbo, the state capital told WITHIN NIGERIA reporter that he once tested positive to COVID-19 but he had mild symptoms. He was advised to self isolate but he used to go to the hospital to collect drugs.

HEALTH OFFICIALS BRING DRUGS TO MY HOUSE – COVID-19 PATIENT

After a thorough search, WITHIN NIGERIA found a resident of the state simply identified as Oluwasegun who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and he is currently isolating in his apartment.

Oluwasegun, a COVID-19 patient in an interview session with WITHIN NIGERIA disclosed that health officials normally bring drugs for him at home after they affirmed that he is the only one living in his apartment.

Oluwasegun further revealed that he went to the state hospital, Asubiaro when he discovered that he’s experiencing some COVID-19 symptoms like fever and dry cough.

I did not pay a dime for the test. I was escorted by health officials to my apartment after the result came out positive to self isolate. They gave me drugs and asked me to call if it becomes severe but I have spent more than 14 days now, he told WITHIN NIGERIA.

When asked if he did not go to market or shops to buy foodstuffs, Oluwasegun said he is not rich but comfortable and he had already bought foodstuffs in excess before he tested positive. Moreso, the health officials instructed me that I should not go out, Oluwasegun added.

Did you tell anyone that you tested positive for COVID-19? Yes, I technically told some relatives and friends, he replied this reporter.

REACTIONS FROM GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

WITHIN NIGERIA interviewed the Honorable Commissioner for Health in Osun state, Dr. Rafiu Isamot via telephone and the health commissioner clarified some of the issues raised.

Dr. Isamot told WITHIN NIGERIA that some responsible citizens who have the capacity to self-isolate were allowed while those who do not have the capacity were housed at the state isolation centre.

The health commissioner stated that the state government did not shut any isolation centre rather we moved patients from mercyland centre to the state hospital, Asubiaro to avoid wastage. We had less than 10 patients then and how do we maintain 322-bed isolation centres with 8 ICUs if all the patients were not moved to a particular centre?

When asked about the COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who come to the state hospital to recieve drugs and later go back to isolation at their respective homes, the health commissioner told WITHIN NIGERIA that his duty is to oversee all health affairs and overall management such as provision of drugs, staff welfare, regulation and others.

I go to Asubiaro and other isolation centres to inspect or manage overall affairs not to count number of COVID-19 patients who recieved drugs because I have an incident manager named Prof. Peter Olaitan, the Chief Managing Director of LAUTECH Teaching Hospital whose duty is to oversee such task. I will advise that you get in touch with him, the health commissioner told WITHIN NIGERIA.

When contacted, the CMD LAUTECH Teaching Hospital who doubles as the incident manager of COVID-19 team in the state, Prof. Peter Olaitan told WITHIN NIGERIA that there are some COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who visit the state hospital to recieve drugs but such patients either come with their private vehicle, motorcycle or walk alone to the hospital if it is not far to their respective homes.

Prof. Olaitan told this reporter that self isolation is a standard practice certified by the World Health Organisation and almost 90 percent of all COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms in the state are in self-isolation. Responsible COVID-19 patients who also have the capacity to self-isolate are allowed under strict supervision.

We will follow them to their respective homes to check if they are living alone and have the capacity to isolate for 14 days. In a situation where a COVID-19 patient lives in a crowded house, we will house him or her in our isolation centre, the incident manager disclosed.

Recently, we tested some NYSC corps members and nursing students. Some of them tested positive but we did not allow them to self-isolate because they reside in camps and there’s 99 percent possibility that they will easily infect their colleagues. They were housed at the state isolation centre. As far as Osun state is concerned, the test is free, treatment is free and feeding is also free if one is housed at the state isolation centre, he added.

Although we have situations where some COVID-19 patients run away, subjecting us to extra work in finding them through contact tracing and other methods. These people who are few in numbers are probably driven by ignorance about the virus. But we have workers code-named; DSNO – District Notification Officers. They take drugs to COVID-19 patients, call, text and visit them seldomly to check and study them in isolation, the CMD LAUTECH Teaching Hospital concluded.