Oyo’s agenda on COVID-19 practical, well thought-out —Ex-UCH CMD

Former Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the University College Hospital (UCH), Professor Temitope Alonge, in this interview, speaks on the facilities and protocols put in place by the Oyo State government to contain and manage the novel coronavirus in the state.

The facility that has now been re-designated as Infectious Disease Centre used to be Maternal and Child Hospital. Did you meet a functional hospital on ground and, perhaps, record of patients who were there? Was it actually functional or it was just the building before you started your own assignment?

Well, my assignment was to make this place work as an Infectious Disease Centre for treatment. What it was used for before then I really don’t know. That’s why my major concern was establishing a flow and making sure that the things required are procured and installed.


What are the materials procured for the rehabilitation of the centre?

The things I requested for this place to be functioning are Intensive Care Unit beds, Intensive Care Unit monitors, infusion bulbs, defibrillator, oxygen piping, a mini-laboratory and monitoring system that will allow us to be able to know what is going on. The camera was under installation by the time I came, and drawing water on the system and then the other general service areas.


While you are working on the facilities, what about the personnel that would make the facilities function?

Dr Babalola is in charge of Case Management from the ministry. Already, there were personnel working at the centre. We have trained over 27 health care workers and we are still going to train more. Apart from that, we have held rigorous training on infection control for different categories of health workers, and more will still be trained.

So, we have a list of volunteers that have made their intention known to work in this place and they will be coming here in batches.


The Infectious Disease Centre has taken off, but what is the state of the isolation centres in other zones like Ogbomoso, Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa?

Immediately this centre took off, His Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde, gave the directive that I should go and review the isolation centres in Saki and Ogbomoso, with the intention of finding out what is on ground and then take new decision on the updates that are required. The isolation centre at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital has been functional, but we are currently expanding it. The setting up of a 100-bed isolation centre is also going on in Saki and this is being done in collaboration with private sector players. Apart from these two cities, His Excellency and his team visited Idere and Igboora, both in Ibarapa zone of the state on Wednesday, and we inspected the two facilities where the isolation centre for that zone will be set up.

But you should not forget that the facilities in Saki and Ogbomoso, at the moment, are going to be isolation centres and not treatment centres. This facility in Olodo is the treatment centre.

So, cases that require admission will probably be transferred from those isolation centres to this place for proper treatment.

What I expect from the people at the teaching hospital, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso and UCH, Ibadan, which is federal, is to make use of this centre for all kind of epidemiological studies, field control studies, field epidemiology and engage in a lot of research activities to keep this place running whether with their own research grants or from the government.

I have never seen a facility like this left idle, even outside the country. There is always a use for it for research and that is why a centre is preferred to a hospital. International donors may not want to give you fund, but if they see your good work, they will. Whatever disease that we found is an epidemic, we can research it here. We can even come here to do malaria research. We can do so many things and the facility will not be left idle. We have talked to the government and some of our researchers who work in epidemiology to come up with something.


You said volunteers have shown interest. Does this mean the government will not employ permanent health care workers?

The state government recently conducted an interview to employ health care workers and that process is still in progress. For the volunteers, they will not go home empty-handed. There is going to be a calculated rate for them according to their status, cadres and the kinds of job they do. So, there is a difference between frontline volunteers that are directly in contact with the patients and those who are collating data from the field and at the back end. I believe the government will put an appropriate rate in place for them.


What are the potentialities of this place apart from the pandemic issue, and what value can it add in terms of overall health care delivery to this state?

This particular centre, if I was involved in infectious disease research, I probably would have engaged in research activities that can tie me down. I would not even mind if I have a place for the night. I will just do research, because it is a quiet environment and has all you can ask for.

I believe my colleagues who are involved will take advantage of this facility to come and do their research once they know. And the result of the outcome of this research is not only going to be beneficial to the people of Oyo State, but also to the nation and probably the entire African continent. This is a potential springboard for some young researchers and also a goldmine for those who want to engage in meaningful academic pursuit. That’s the way I see it and this is just one phase and, once this phase is over, this place can be put into a lot of use.


What is your assessment of how Nigeria has been addressing the COVID-19 challenge?

Actually, I am not very conversant with the preparation of other states. I have not taken time to read their agenda. But the agenda that was drawn by the Task Force for Oyo State is both academic, practical and implementable. They were well-thought-out. A lot of work was put on prevention and, then, the back-end was to have a top-class centre like Olodo. Those preventive measures are extremely critical to the final treatment centre like Olodo. Maybe the reason why we don’t have a lot of cases at the moment is because of the effort that has been put in place by the state government in trying to make the issue of prevention a critical part.

Case contact tracing is another critical part. And the Emergency Operating Centres (EOC) has a beautiful helpline method of talking to patients or relations of those who have contacts to try and douse their tension and get things further. Ibadan is a very massive city. If all of those measures were not put in place maybe, by now, we would have had more catastrophes on our hands. So, I believe those ones are so critical and the treatment part of it is too expensive. Even though the government has invested in it, it is more expensive than the preventive part. The state government and the Task Force have got the proper balance of speaking loud about prevention and, at the same time, getting ready in the event there is a problem.




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