Members of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Lagos branch, recently took to the streets to mourn their colleagues who lost their lives in the line of duty to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
The nurses, who were clad in black, commenced the candlelight procession from Agidingbi down to the Ministry of Information, Alausa, Ikeja, chanting different dirges, as well as the nursing anthem.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Pharmanews, NANNM Chairperson, Mrs Olatunde Olushola, explained the essence of the candlelight procession, describing it as the association’s way of mourning its Ebola-slain members, as well as sensitising the government and the public on the need to recognise and compensate the family members of the dead nurses.
“Government and the public have not been mentioning the nurses that died in the line of duty, while caring for Ebola patients. We are all equal before God; so, both the nurses and the doctors that lost their lives due to EVD deserve the same recognition. Moreover, nurses are the first and last contact patients meet in the hospital. And after Nigeria has been declared Ebola-free, nurses will still continue to talk about the disease as well as enlightening patients on it,” she stressed.
Olushola further emphasised the need for government to lead by example, by appreciating nurses, in order to correct the widespread notion that nurses are nobody in the health care team.
“Our government should not wait until nursing will be relegated to the background, as it is often said to us that nurses are nobody in the health sector; it is as if they are ants before the government. If the government believes that there is equality in what we called life, then they should do what is right.”
A sorrowful Olushola, who identified the late nurses as Justina Echelonu and Ukor Evelyn, both staff of First Consultants Hospital, Obalende, said this was the first time in her tenure that the association would lose two nurses to an epidemic in quick succession.
She also faulted the one-sided clamour for the immortalisation of Dr Stella Adadevoh, describing it as an aberration.
“I want to believe that even if it is a health attendant or a security man that died in the course of treating Patrick Sawyer, I think they should be compensated. For government to be mentioning Adadevoh alone, is an aberration. It shows how little the government t appreciates the nursing profession,” she said.
Also speaking on the event, NANNM Secretary, Mr Otaro Daniel, urged the government to console bereaved relatives by shouldering major responsibilities left by the deceased nurses, as well as putting machineries in place to prevent such occurrences in the future.
Comrade Akintunde Ibironke, NANNM’s state auditor II, also expressed her sympathy for the bereaved, urging them to take solace in the Almighty God.
“But at the same time, we still want the government to do one or two things for us. We want to immortalise our nurses; we want the government to recognise the pains that the family members are going through in terms of what they are doing for Dr Adadevoh, and they should do for them too,” she noted.
Ibiroke further added that “as regards our hazard allowance, though we cannot measure money with life, at the same time, we expect the government to revisit our hazard allowance so that we are sure of taking something home that measures up to the type of services we are rendering. We have a lot of nurses working in IDH and they are being exposed to these diseases every blessed day. Again, we need protectives to guard against these infectious diseases which should be supplied at regular interval.”
Addressing the nurses at the government secretariat, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, said the government was making adequate provision to reward every one that suffered in one way or the other in curtailing the Ebola disease.
He explained that Governor Babatunde Fashola had invited and met with the survivors of all the deceased health workers and not just the doctors, adding that “while some turned up, some did not come. However, we have agreed to support the hospital, by asking them to show us the way in which we can support them.”
He assured that the government would not discriminate in its compensatory efforts.
“I also want to join you in commiserating with the families of the bereaved. I also pray that we don’t see something like this in the future,” the commissioner said.