Lists “areas of concern”
Says lack of testing facilities remains a challenge
Urges governments to prevent death of health workers
The West African College of Physicians (WACP) has commended governments in the sub region for the steps taken so far in their response to COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press statement signed by the Secretary General of the College, Dr. Albert Akpalu, the college noted that measures undertaken by individual countries such as palliatives taken to ameliorate the impact of lockdown on vulnerable population groups, “vamping up of the capacities for surveillance, diagnosis and clinical care of infected persons, and the motivational packages of incentive offered to health workers” have helped in mitigating the disastrous impact of the ravaging pandemic in the sub region.
“The WACP is convinced that had these measures not been put in place, and in a reasonably timely manner, not minding the scarcity of financial resources in the sub region, the scale of the pandemic in the sub region, including the number of deaths, would have been far higher, given the parlous state of public health infrastructure in many of the countries in the sub region,” the statement said.
The college also commended national public health institutions in the sub region, regional and global public health institutions such as the West African and African Centers for Disease Control, WAHO and the WHO among others, for their roles in the response to the pandemic in the sub region.
The Secretary General noted that many of the affected countries in the sub region were just in the process of recovering from other disease outbreaks such as Ebola, and Lassa fever which took a heavy toll on their resources.
“We should also bear in mind that some of the countries that were hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak have also had to cope, along with others that were not so severely affected by Ebola, with longstanding outbreaks of Lassa fever, among other outbreaks of HIDs.
“All put together, the series of outbreaks would be expected to have additive negative effects on the economies and peoples of the sub region,” he said.
WACP however listed seven “areas of concern” in the sub-region’s response to COVID-19 pandemic and recommended measures to address them. These include:
- Availability of diagnostic centers and reagents for testing for the confirmation of suspected cases.
- The protection of healthcare workers.
- Need for the development of a common framework for the guidance of further response to the pandemic in the sub region.
- Need to build on the opportunities offered by the pandemic, and resulting good will, to strengthen the public health capacity and infrastructure in Chapter countries.
- Need to secure the establishment, at strategic locations, of critical care centers for the clinical care of severely ill persons with HIDs including COVID-19, and Ebola and Lassa fevers.
- Building on the opportunities offered by the pandemic for development of surveillance and research infrastructure and capacity, which are in dire need for effective public health response to outbreaks in the sub region; and
- Need for national governments to be aware of the ready availability of Chapter Members and Fellows to draw on for national and sub regional services in meeting the medical manpower needs of the response to the pandemic in potential and actual areas of want in countries of the sub region.
The statement described the lack of facilities for testing or lack of diagnosis as a great challenge even during the recent outbreak of EVD in the sub region saying this contributed significantly to the spread and prolongation of that outbreak.
“The sub region, unfortunately, failed to leverage on that outbreak to develop the requisite number of strategically located centers for molecular diagnosis/modern diagnostic methods, just as she similarly failed to leverage on the longstanding epidemic of Lassa fever. However, we should not let the new opportunity in the COVID-19 pandemic slip away again.”
The college therefore urged the sub region to leverage on the mobile, modular, deployable molecular diagnostic laboratories donated by the EU and also complement/supplement the effort of the EU by procuring additional units.
“The advantage and attraction of these laboratories is their ‘mobility’, which enables them to be deployed at short notices to areas of need.”
The college also decried the death of health workers as the COVID-19 pandemic rages just as the sub region experienced in the Ebola and Lassa fever outbreaks.
“This is bad for a sub region that is already laboring under the load of a grossly inadequate numbers of different cadres of HCWs, particularly physicians and nurses. “We, therefore, urge that every effort be made to secure the protection of those left.
“This could be by way of training and retraining in infection prevention and control practices including the use of PPE, provision of PPE, adequate provision for the care of those who are ill, and adequate attention to their mental health needs.”
The college further endorsed safety measures taken by government in the sub-region and pledged its willingness to continue to offer its professional services and assist where and when help is needed towards the successful mitigation of the pandemic in the sub region.
“WACP wholeheartedly supports the recommendations of governments in the sub region that every one should wear face masks while out in public or in transit, maintain physical distancing and practice regular and frequent hand hygiene practices. These measures should be continued while the pandemic lasts.
“However, the College is concerned with the secondary and unwanted effects of total or near total lockdowns. The WACP therefore urges that the implementation and extent of lockdown should continue to be reviewed from time to time, and palliated as much as is possible,” the statement further said.