Nigeria Needs a Personal Protective Equipment Policy for Health workers: viewpoint of two physicians/public health practitioners

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Written by: Sachalee Campbell and Tolulope Fashina

Since 2018, there has been an unabated outbreak of Lassa fever, an endemic viral illness in Nigeria. Infection is facilitated by contact with the vector, the Mastomys natalensis (“multimammate rat”), or its excretory products. Transmission between persons also occurs through contact with infected body fluids.

Source: Africa Science News , Health workers attending to patient with Lassa fever

Healthcare professionals are at risk of nosocomial Lassa fever infection, as evidenced by 12 health personnel being infected in 2019. The limited personal protective equipment available in health facilities has contributed to this risk. The Federal Ministry of Health encouraged health workers to utilize personal protective equipment (PPE), but no policy exists to guarantee their availability in all healthcare facilities or that all staff will use them. This policy is necessary as healthcare professionals should be protected from occupational diseases.

Efforts have been made by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) to train health workers on the use of PPE. Key stakeholders  have enthusiastically supported this program but less attention has been paid to ensuring the availability of PPE. Medical societies including the Nigerian Medical Association have emphasised the need to prioritize capacity building of health care professionals on infection and prevention control, including  protecting themselves by having PPE consistently and readily available.

Although commendable efforts have been employed by the Ministry of Health to control the outbreak by increasing diagnosis and treatment capacity, a policy ensuring not just training of health professionals on the use of PPE but also assuring the consistent availability of PPE is necessary in controlling the outbreak. The use of PPE will significantly reduce the incidence of nosocomial infections and subsequently control the outbreak.

Source: Channels TV Youtube page, “Relatives Lament As Lassa Fever Kill Two Doctors In Kano”

We propose that the National Health policy and National Policy on Occupational Safety and Health be amended to include specific guidelines on disease outbreak prevention, epidemic control and protection of health workers during disease outbreaks. Effective policy requires collaboration of stakeholders including advocacy by Nigeria Medical AssociationNCDC and private interest groups such as Exxon Mobil (which has a history of funding infection control initiatives in Nigeria) and prompt allocation of funds by the Federal Ministries of Health, Labour and Employment and Finance.

One Response to “Nigeria Needs a Personal Protective Equipment Policy for Health workers: viewpoint of two physicians/public health practitioners”

  1. YanlingZhao Says:

    Thank you for sharing this and I really enjoyed your post! You brought up a really great point that not only PPE training is important, but also the availability to PPE is critical. Especially during an outbreak that a health care provider may need more than 1 PPE per day. As you may know, there is currently a pandemic outbreak of coronavirus. In the news, there are many stories of how Chinese doctors are all wearing adult diapers, so that they do not need to go to the bathroom (which could potentially ruin the PPE), as there is a sudden shortage of protective gown/equipment. (Please see news at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/exhausted-doctors-at-chinas-virus-epicentre-overworked-and-unprotected/articleshow/74094015.cms?from=mdr). I would advocate for state budget spent on PPE, or look more into funding opportunities throughout the nation. Many times international non-profit organizations also have grant that may help.

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