COVID-19: Eight months after, FG fails to insure health workers

Medical doctors in Nigeria have decried the delay in the commencement of life insurance for frontline health workers combating the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there is no specific time for the implementation of the scheme.

Presidents of the Nigerian Medical Association, Prof. Innocent Ujah; and National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Aliyu Sokomba, stated this in separate interviews with newsmen.

In the wake of the first wave of the pandemic in April, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had said the government would engage the insurance industry to package special health care insurance, “which is life insurance,” for health workers.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, had earlier, on April 3, 2020, stated that the government was making efforts to provide medical and life insurance coverage for the health workers in recognition of the danger to which “they are exposed.”

But eight months after, there seems to be little development on the package, despite the second wave of the infection, which had killed many health workers in line of duty.

The NMA Chairman, FCT chapter, Enema Amodu, had last Friday stated that 20 doctors died within the penultimate week, adding that the figures kept increasing daily.

Speaking to our correspondent on Thursday, the NMA President, Ujah, said the life insurance coverage had yet to be implemented.

He said, “There is a committee that is working on it. The NMA committee is interfacing with the government. They have not given me feedback so I don’t have an update. They (the government) said they have some insurance companies they need to involve. We are waiting for the outcome but to the best of my knowledge, it has not commenced.”

Asked when the implementation would likely take off, Ujah said, “It should have taken off before now. We are not the implementers. We will continue to justify why doctors must be put on life insurance because of the risk.”

He added, “We will continue to show our commitment and dedication but we need the government and other stakeholders to support the process. It is tasking and we need to be motivated. If people are working, they should be motivated. Incentives should be developed for them so that there will be more commitment and dedication.”

In the same vein, NARD President, Sokomba, said he was not aware of any deceased doctors’ families who benefited from the insurance package.

 He said the association had reached out to the government on the non-payment of the death benefit, but that it claimed that insurance companies had already been instructed to disburse the funds.

Sokomba stated, “These insurance companies are supposed to relate with us. But it appears that these people are not interested in paying death benefits. I am not aware of someone (a doctor) that died and their family or next of kin was paid anything.

“We got back to the government to let them know that we have yet to access this life insurance. Those of us that are alive have not been enrolled. We are told that the process has procedures and takes a while before people can access their death-in-service benefits.

“For now, there is no specific date for the take-off. We hope that claim turns out to be true. We are just hoping that their words are anything to go by. We are hoping that someday, the families of those who have died will get their death-in-service benefits.”

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