Onitsha Is Nigeria’s First General Hospital Certified COVID-19 Testing Center

Yemisi Izuora

The Onitsha General Hospital made history on August 5 when the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) certified it as a COVID-19 testing centre, thus becoming the first general hospital in Nigeria to be so designated.

 

The state government elated by this said there is need for the third COVID-19 centre in Anambra State, even though the first two are not fully utilized.

According to to information commissioner in the state, Mr. C- Don Adinuba, the first centre is Accuanalysis Diagnostic Centre, a public and private partnership (PPP), located in Nnewi.

The second centre, at the state-owned Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University is the only mega laboratory in the whole of the Southeast that can test up to 2,350 samples in each cycle of 12 hours because each of the five installed units can test up to 470 samples within this period.

“It is the Abbott Laboratory brand from the United States, arguably the best in the world. But it can operate only when there are at least 24 samples, and it often takes days to reach this figure. This defect, as lawyers would say, has been cured by the new facility at the Onitsha General Hospital. The new machine at the Onitsha General Hospital can operate even when there is only one sample, and the result can be out within one hour or two.” said Adinuba.

He said the brand of the COVID-19 testing equipment at the Onitsha General Hospital is known as GeneXpert from the United States.

It has for some time been available in nine hospitals in the state, four missional hospitals and five general hospitals and is used traditionally to test tuberculosis.

With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, the manufacturers decided to add a mechanism to enable it to test COVID-19.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr Vincent Okpala, who used to work as a medical practitioner in the United States, and his team were following the development closely for months and their knowledge and skills are beneficial to the state.

Immediately the efficacy of the GeneXpert equipment as a COVID-19 testing machine was established following the introduction or addition of cartridge, the Okpala, and the Commissioner for Diaspora, Culture, Tourism and Indigenous Art, Dr Christian Madubuko, contacted a distinguished Anambra medical doctor practising cutting-edge medicine in the United States, Dr Leo Egbujobi, an expert in intervention cardiology who hails from Okija in Ihiala Local Government Area, for assistance.

“Dr Egbujiobi saw that both Dr Okpala and Dr Madubuko knew their onions and were committed to the common good. He and his wife immediately decided to donate Biosafety Level Two cabinet to the state government to enable it to build a third COVID-19 testing centre in the state, this time at the Onitsha General Hospital.” said Adinuba.

The Commissioner said that the Anambra State people are proud that their state is the first state in Nigeria and so far the only one to have a general hospital which tests for COVID-19.

“All the other 62 testing centres in the country are tertiary hospitals or federal medical centres or private labs. The unique status which the Onitsha General Hospital now enjoys will help it to build capacity. It is regrettable that general hospitals in our nation are not what they should be. It is a thing of joy, therefore, that steps are now being taken to rectify the historical errors which the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted with dramatic force.”

He said with the three testing centres, some people think Anambra State now has excess testing capacity for COVID-19, just as most people think that we have excess protective care centres which other people call isolation centres.

“We are encouraging all our people to do voluntary testing which is free. It is now mandatory for civil servants to do COVID-19 tests. Early detection is key in the fight against COVID-19.

Once an infection is detected early enough, it is pretty easy for our Case Management Team to take care of it. All casualties we have recorded were those whose cases were reported to us very late, sometimes when those infected were already dead. We have mounted a vigorous campaign for early detection of the coronavirus in the state. Governor Willie Obiano has personally written a letter to every bishop in the state and other religious leaders, including the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, on the need to mobilise their followers towards doing COVID-19 tests.

“We are speaking to various professional associations like the Nigerian Society of Engineers and unions like teachers and traders unions. We are speaking to traditional rulers and presidents general of town unions; I would like to remark here that the Obi of Onitsha, Agbogidi Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, has been outstanding in this regard, as in every assignment he carries out.” the Commissioner added.

 

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