By James Edet
Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Cross River branch has raised concerns over recent possible coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in the state, demanding that the state government puts more effort in scaling up the level of preparedness and containment of the deadly virus.
The group stated that it had received several reports from the Surveillance and Epidemiology unit indicating that delay in some post-mortem sample collections has led to the rising number of death of suspected cases of COVID-19 in the state.
These views were expressed in a press statement signed by the Chairman of the Association, Agam Ayurk and the Secretary, Dr Ezoke Epoke, and released on May 22.
The Association disclosed that the state has carried out only seven tests of COVID-19, stating that it accounts for the zero record of cases and places in Cross River as the state with the second least testing of COVID-19 in the country.
NMA therefore urged the state government to consider a coordinated and expanded surveillance response and team, adding that it will be effective in the prevention and containment of the virus.
It disclosed that as of May 21, samples collected and tested so far were all from the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar (UCTH), it thus asked if UCTH is the only hospital with patients fitting criterion for testing.
“Is it only UCTH that has patients that meet the criteria for sample collection? What happened to patients who may have visited the various Primary Health Care Facilities, General Hospitals and Private Hospitals across the State that may have satisfied the criteria for testing?,” the Association asked in the press statement.
While it commended the state government for its effort to prevent importation of the virus into the state, the Association submitted that the lack of a Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) designated Molecular Laboratory Testing Centre in the state is worrisome and poses risk in the management of COVID-19.
According to the group, the NCDC Laboratory catchment for coronavirus testing for Cross River State is at Irrua, Edo State, a distance of 447.9km (7h 50min) from Calabar.
It recommended that NCDC change the testing centre of Cross River State from Irrua to Abakaliki, stating that Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State has a testing centre that is 188.9km (3h 17min) from Calabar.
It added that NCDC should fully accredit Dr Lawrence Memorial Hospital which is a Bio-Safety Level Three (BSL-3) laboratory and UCTH, Calabar for COVID-19 testing.
Currently, Nigeria has 7261 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 35 states, as at the time of filing this report.
Cross River is yet to record a single case of the virus.