LAST week, some patients who had been isolated from the rest of society on account of coronavirus infection in Gombe State reportedly vacated the Federal Teaching Hospital in Gombe, the state capital, to protest the poor state of facilities and treatment. Earlier, patients in the Kwadom Infectious Disease Hospital in the Yamaltu Deba Local Government Area of the state had embarked on a similar protest against the shoddy treatment which they received from the hospital. The patients complained about the lack of food and medicine and of being kept at the isolation centres without any care or attention. By the evening of the previous day, some of the patients said, they had not yet been served breakfast.
The incidents were so horrible as to be almost unbelievable. The patients were at their deadliest when they trooped out of the isolation facilities to mingle with the rest of society. According to media reports, the patients went as far as the roads linking Gombe to the states of Adamawa and Borno to vent their anger and frustrations. It is quite unfortunate that the Nigerian state almost always offers a tragic transaction with its own citizens. Often, when duty calls on the Nigerian state to protect the life and property of its citizens, it finds a way of disappointing them. In the instant case, the Gombe State government did not just stop at disappointing those patients who needed to be rehabilitated; it went even further to endanger the lives of innocent people who were as of the time of the protests presumed to be still free from the virus. Certainly, all over the world, keeping patients who have been infected under isolation and surveillance presents some challenges. But the authorities in civilised climes do everything in their power to provide food and drugs to patients and make them feel very comfortable.
It is unsettling to see coronavirus patients being let loose in a country that records increasing figures of infections on a daily basis. Although an aide of the Gombe State governor tried to control the damage already done, his excuses served no useful purpose. There can be no justification for the government’s failure to cater for inmates at the isolation centres.
It is crucial for state governments to take responsibility for the afflicted by providing all that they need to defeat the coronavirus. Nigerians are aware of the deluge of contributions to the purses of the federal and state governments and they are right to wonder what is being done with the money when those afflicted are not being properly taken care of.
A situation in which patients keep escaping from isolation centres is appalling. It is unacceptable and absurd. The government should not be seen as avoiding its own responsibilities if it doesn’t want to be identified as a failure. It should be more serious in the fight against Covid-19.
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