Only two of the many isolation centres identified by the federal government in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are fully ready and attending to coronavirus patients. The two centres are located at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH) in Gwagwalada, which has space for 33 patients and the National Hospital, Abuja, which has capacity for five patients only
There are calls for more well-equipped centres to meet the growing demands especially in Abuja which is recording new cases on a daily basis. Some of the places identified by the federal government as potential isolation centres in Abuja in the event of COVID-19 explosion include the DSS Guest House, Women Development Centre, Agura Hotel, This Day Dome and MKO Abiola Stadium among others.
On its part, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) said it will establish an isolation centre at Asokoro General Hospital, and two others in Karu and Zuba in the suburbs of the FCT
Checks, however, revealed that none of the three centres is fully ready to receive COVID-19 patients.
Investigations showed that works is on-going in few of the places identified by the federal government for establishing isolation centres while nothing is on ground at other places. So far, 48 cases have been confirmed in the FCT, and there are fears that until relevant authorities redoubled effort, some of the isolation centres would not be ready anytime soon. The 33-bed centre in Gwagwalada has been fully occupied while some patients have checked in at the National Hospital which has beds for five people. The building at the National Hospital was upgraded since 2014 when the country geared up to deal with the Ebola outbreak.
The officials had restricted movement around the unit which has a dedicated lift for patients. One of the officials who gave a description of the facility said each room has an en suite bath and toilet, an air-conditioner, a ventilator and oxygen panel. During a visit by our reporter, the unit was manned by 15 nurses, five doctors and other personnel trained for the purpose. Authorities at the hospital said they had taken in some patients and were prepared to take care of them. “We are prepared and busy now,” Jafaru Momoh, Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital, said. “We actually have some cases now and we are prepared to receive more,” he added. Why FG mulls many isolation centres The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, had last Wednesday said that federal government would continue to expand the isolation centres in the FCT to accommodate more patients. Speaking during the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 news briefing, the minister said: “With nearly 1,000 bed spaces identified in the FCT, we would continue to expand the number of isolation centres and Intensive Care (ICU) units across the country for those who may have severe complications from the disease due to being immuno-compromised. “This includes elderly people above the age of 70 or those with critical underlying health conditions such as cancer, tuberculosis and HIV,” he said.
Earlier, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Adeleke Mamora, reported government was working on a 700-bed space for isolation of patients that tested positive for COVID-19 in addition to the isolation centres at the National Hospital and UATH that have less than 40-bed spaces for ICU. He said: “Last weekend, the PTF on COVID-19 team visited This Day Dome. Right now, the floor of that place is being configured to make it a washable floor and mattresses and beds are also being configured there. That place alone can accommodate up to 400 patients. “Agura Hotel can take over 300; the Women Development Centre will take about 160 patients while the DSS Guest House can take close to 200 persons,” he said. He added that less than 4 per cent of COVID-19 patients needed intensive care at isolation centres and that most cases did not require hospitalisation. Faces of FG’s planned isolation centres Some guards at the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja said nothing has been done in converting the stadium into an isolation centre for people that tested positive for coronavirus.
The guards, who pleaded anonymity as they were not cleared to talk to journalists, said everything at the stadium was the same. Our reporter, who went round the stadium, observed that nothing was done at the football pitch and at the velodrome section of the stadium. The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, tweeted last Friday that the federal government had “approved for the Ministry of Youth and Sports to open and make available the stadiums in Surulere, Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja and Kaduna as well as our NYSC camps nationwide for use as isolation centres as they are needed.” He said further on Twitter that stadiums could be used as testing centres.
“Our prayers are that Nigeria never gets to this level, but we must all be prepared to support the system. God bless all our doctors and medical staff at this critical time.” The isolation centre at This Day Dome, Kur Mohammed Avenue, Central Business District, Abuja, was not yet ready on Monday when our reporter visited. We observed an on-going construction work at the facility. There was an excavator, outdoor units of air-conditioners and construction workers. An official at the site told our reporter to return next week for details on the readiness of the facility.
A source that used to patronise the DSS’s Kapital Klub and Apartments in Asokoro, said all the guests in the building have been checked out. He said the place would most likely be used to accommodate and treat very important persons (VIPs) that might come up with the coronavirus disease. The source, who spoke to Daily Trust close to the hotel, noted that there was no patient occupying the place. Also, the isolation centre at Agura Hotel located along Moshood Abiola Road, Garki, Abuja, was yet to start receiving patients.
We learnt that there were no guests at the over 150-room hotel with only guards at the gate. The Women Development Centre, which is another planned isolation centre, was not yet ready. The guards at the facility said some people had visited the place ahead of commencement of installation of equipment. FCTA centres not ready and that most of the places identified by the FCT administration as isolation centres are also not ready for occupation. The Karu General Hospital, Abuja, earmarked as one of the isolation and treatment centres for the COVID-19, is yet to commence operation. The Minister of State for the FCT, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, had given contractors handling the project a 48-hour ultimatum last week to make it ready for occupation. The minister, during a visit said a 300-bed space would be made available as a proactive measure to respond to any emergency occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. A source within the hospital told Daily Trust that no COVID-19 case had been referred to the centre yet as the process of fixing the buildings designated for the isolation was on going. “Facilities have been provided and the blocks that will be used for the isolation exercise are undergoing some cleaning and painting. The blocks were not in use for a while.
This means that the isolation process will soon commence and will not affect other services of the hospital,” the source said. Asked if the minister would take action since her directive to the contractors was flouted, her Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Austine Elemue, said action would be taken but did not give specifics. Although the Zuba General Hospital was listed by the FCT minister as one of the hospitals to be used as a quarantine centre, there were no preparations towards that purpose as at the time of filing this report. The hospital, located few kilometres from Zuba on the Abuja-Lokoja expressway, caters for patients from neighbouring communities. Except for the presence of a few nurses and other medical personnel, the hospital looked deserted when our reporter visited. Sources said there were no buildings or wards in the hospital designated to admit suspected coronavirus infections in the hospital. An official of the hospital who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity disclosed that they offered only outpatient services at the moment. But our reporter noticed an on-going expansion work in the hospital close to the accident and emergency ward. ‘Collaboration key to stemming COVID-19’ The Minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, Tuesday expressed appreciation to the private sector for the assistance rendered to the FCTA in the efforts at containing the COVID-19 pandemic in the territory. A statement by Mr. Anthony Ogunleye, Chief Press Secretary to the minister, said Bello visited the Idu Train Station Training Centre, which was being outfitted to accommodate 300 beds to be used as an isolation and treatment centre, Asokoro Hospital, Karu General Hospital and the road leading to the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Gaduwa, Abuja. At the Idu isolation and treatment facility, which is a five-storey structure, the minister appreciated Polaris Bank and FATE Foundation for donating 150 beds. Also donated by FATE Foundation and CCECC are Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), monitoring machines, furniture and air-conditioners. The facility is also expecting 300 extra beds from Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, the statement added.
Govt should discourage self-isolation Experts said that some of the confirmed COVID-19 cases must either be at home, had secured spaces in private facilities or had left the capital city. Dr. Aliyu Musa, a medical practitioner, said there was need for governments at the federal and state levels to extend serious surveillance not just on confirmed cases but their direct and indirect contacts. “Authorities must be mindful of where all the patients are and the most ideal thing is to put potential sources in an isolated area for close monitoring. In an ideal situation, all those that have contacts with confirmed cases should be isolated but what obtains here is that people are just being advised to self-isolate… This should not be so because this will aggravate the problem in the long run,” he said. “From my interactions, there is this conclusion that many patients prefer to either remain in their houses or make private arrangements and this is very dangerous,” he said.