On Thursday July 23, 2020, Lagos State Commissioner for Health Prof. Akin Abayomi, addressed a press conference at which he spoke on several facets of the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the conference, he took questions.
It has become evident from the subsequent reporting of the Honourable Commissioner’s comments and answers that there are misunderstandings that require clarification and correction. This Press Release is intended to do so.
The areas that were insufficiently appreciated and incorrectly portrayed by some members of the press are:
• the perceived inefficiencies in testing and reporting protocols: and
• the cost of caring for patients in our isolation centres.
Testing protocols – The number of tests being conducted presently when compared to what we did in the early stages of the pandemic has shown incredibly significant growth.
Alongside that has come certain challenges. We are not where we want to be, but it would be unfair not to acknowledge the tremendous progress that has been made by the State. With rapid growth has come glitches, which we recognise and are striving to overcome.
Refining and improving on our testing protocols is a process rather than an event and we recognise the challenges and are actively engaged in addressing them.
Cost of Care –The Honourable Commissioner, in the interest of transparency, offered a window onto the economics of COVID-19 care and, regrettably, some Reporters misunderstood his comments.
While we commend the role of the press in probing into the application of public funds, we look up to them to be balanced and accurate their reporting.
It is clear that N1,000,000 sounds more sensational than N100,000, but we must not allow sincerity to be sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism. What the Honourable Commissioner sought to communicate was the range of symptom manifestations of the Corona virus – from mild and moderate to severe and critical.
He explained that the cost of treating these manifestations vary, considerably. In summary, he said this about the cost of COVID-19 care:
Every case is different and it is very difficult to calculate exactly how much managing a COVID-19 patient would cost, but what is clear to us is that when you add up the expenses of maintaining the facility, infrastructure, human resources, feeding and consumables, it costs the government approximately 100,000 naira per day for a non-complicated COVID-19 admission.
Of the 13,835 positive cases identified in Lagos thus far, about 18% equivalent to 2,490 have been admitted into the State’s isolation centres. Of all these patients admitted – about 7% were severe and 1% was critical; that is 8% of total admissions.
The Honourable Commissioner gave an indication of the considerations factored into the costing of intensive care, including ventilation, dialysis, intravenous antibiotics, oxygen and other high and intensive care requirements, depending on the complications of the case.
He went on to estimate the cost of intensive care, which usually requires a longer period of admission, and may range between N500,000 to N1,000,000 per day.
Unfortunately, certain sections of the press chose to latch on to the figure of N1,000,000 and disregarded the painstaking context that had been provided by Prof. Abayomi.
That figure was the upper end of a band and, just as importantly, it applied to no more than 200 out of 2,490 admissions, majority of whom recovered. That means the balance of 2,290 non complicated admissions each cost around N100,000 per day.
The Lagos State’s COVID-19 response cannot succeed without the active support and co-operation of the press and we continue to seek that support in the war against this Corona virus.
We do not ask them to hide anything, but we do ask them to err on the side of full, fair and factual reporting.
Together we shall defeat this virus!