There is no gainsaying that the conversion of a ward in the General Hospital, Kuje, in Kuje Area Council, as emergency isolation Centre for verifying any suspected Ebola virus patients in Abuja, has raised a lot of safety concerns for the people in the area.
The hospital surrounded by private residences, is usually populated with patients in Kuje and neighbouring villages, designated as Ebola referral centre, simply because of its closeness to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, where passengers from international flights are expected to be taken for screening as they arrived the nation’s capital.
Ebola, claimed its first Nigerian victim, a nurse, who among those that treated Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian, who died of the disease in Lagos, recently.
According to experts, the dreaded disease with 90% of fatality is highly contagious, as it spreads through contact with bodily fluids like blood, sweat and vomit.
Some concerned observers have also opined that with heightened threat of Ebola virus, and Nigeria doctors bent on trading blames with the government over their protracted strike is more than ever compounding problems of healthcare services in this part of the world.
Checks revealed that the federal ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has already put in place structures inside male ward of the Kuje hospital, very close to the hospital Mosque, the labour room and the laboratory sections within the medical facility.
As expected, the panic created by the knowledge about the development amongst the Kuje population was very deep that the people demanded that the decision should not be implemented.
To this end, hundreds of the indigenes and non-indigenes protested against the siting of the centre in community, which is the headquarters of Kuje Area council.
According to the concerned and aggrieved residents, the medical facility is the only health centre situated at the centre of Kuje, thereby in the case of any outbreak detected at that centre, all adjourning communities will be affected.
And the protesters, who had marched to the resident of Council chairman, Mr. Ishaku Shaban Tete to lodge disapproval of the sudden development, after conveying their message asked him to seek the intervention of the FCT leadership to relocate the centre to somewhere outside the Council.
Instead of seeking ways to address the concerns of the people over the matter, there was a mild squabble between the FCT Minister Senator Bala Mohammed and Tete, when the duo met during a high powered
stakeholder’s interactive forum in Abuja, on Monday.
The meeting , which had representatives from religious bodies, health association and organisation, transport sector, FCT Area Council chairmen, traditional and religious leaders, international organisations and top FCTA officials among others, was by most accounts overshadowed by the bicker over the establishment of Ebola Isolation.
Following the council’s blunt expression of displeasure over the siting of the Ebola centre, the minister, reprimanded him for inciting the youths against government.
Not deterred by the possible repercussion of challenging directive from above, Tete argued that the people of Kuje are also citizens of the country; hence their right to vent their anger, as they were troubled by the development.
“Everybody knows that Ebola is a very deadly disease. This is the only health centre in the village where every member of the community comes for treatment.
“It is at the centre of the town so if there is an outbreak all my communities will be affected; why can’t the FCTA use one of its specialist hospitals; why Kuje?”, he queries.
In swift reaction to chairman’s’ remark, an obviously disappointed Mohammed told him that he had no right to detect to the government on how to go about the issue.
“You are operating from point of ignorance. The Kuje centre was designated after taking into consideration so many factors. It will not cause Kuje people any harm.
“I don’t like your attitude. Don’t work in ignorance. I have intelligence that you are inciting the youths against government. Go and educate your people.
“Kuje General Hospital belongs to FCT and not Kuje Area Council; You don’t love the people of Kuje more than we do. That is selfishness,” he scolded the chairman.
But, as the panic over the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease spreads across the country, there is urgent need to prepare not only for the suspected Ebola virus carriers, but do so in the interest of all and sundry people.
This is because what the country is dealing with is a very stubborn and deadly virus ever known to mankind, which has no vaccine or treatment, the best thing to do is to properly inform the public and then prevent the disease from spreading even in case of any outbreak in the Territory.
Therefore, the government must go beyond bragging on its right to govern the people, as there are lot many more to do, to ensure effective community engagement, so as to address the peoples’ concerns over the issue.