Nigerian governors are scrambling to buy ventilators as they brace up for the outbreak of coronavirus in their respective states.

Used to assist the body's breathing process when the lungs fail, ventilators are critically needed in these times for patients with the worst effects of the COVID-19 -the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

There have been shortages of ventilators with governments all over the world seeking to acquire more but in Nigeria, the sparsity is overwhelming.

A recently acquired ventilator pictured in one of the Delta State Isolation Centres in Asaba (Twitter/Delta State Giovernment)
A recently acquired ventilator pictured in one of the Delta State Isolation Centres in Asaba (Twitter/Delta State Giovernment)
Twitter

According to a Punch report, Nigeria has less than 500 ventilators. For context on the shortage, New York alone has about 11,000.

To prepare for the need of ventilators in their states, Governors are making last-minute efforts to get more to prepare for any outbreak of the coronavirus.

Two marketers who deal in healthcare sales told Pulse that they have received calls from several governors looking to order ventilators.

“I’m getting lots of orders from different governors for ventilators, unfortunately, I’m out of stock for now,” says an independent marketer who wishes to remain anonymous for this report to maintain his relationship with the governors.

Delta State Governor Dr Ifeanyi Okowa recently revealed that he had acquired 19 ventilators in preparation for an outbreak of the COVID-19 in his state.

COVIDー19 is a respiratory virus. This is why, as a precautionary measure, in the last 72 hours, the Delta State Government has acquired 19 new ventilators and a good number of monitors that will be used by our medical staff in the event of an outbreak,” Okowa announced on March 25, 2020.

For another marketer who spoke to Pulse, the last-minute rush from these governors is a testament to how insensitive they are to the need of the people.

“Long before this outbreak of coronavirus, I've had lots of meetings with these governors and their commissioners of health, offering to sell ventilators to them, but they all turn it down,” this salesperson for a healthcare company who also wishes anonymity told Pulse.

"I've had to explain the need for these machines to several governors but they still didn't buy, Now they all want 10, 15, some even 20.

Sometimes you have to chase a governor for six to 10 months to give you an audience to market your product, now they are the ones calling.

Scale up

However, healthcare experts do not blame the governors for not buying lots of ventilators before the threat of coronavirus outbreak.

According to Dr Olatokunbo Otitoju of AXA Mansard, one of the top Health maintenance organizations (HMO) in Nigeria, ventilators are not machines that were critically needed before coronavirus.

Our disease burden in Nigeria is not skewed towards the need for ventilators,” Otitoju told Pulse.

It wouldn’t have solved our problems. In Nigeria, we have malaria, Tuberculosis that we need to battle.

A ventilator is not something any government in Nigeria would have invested in because people would still die even if we had 1000 to 2000 of them.

The ventilators would have been idle. Right now, we must be able to quickly scale up. But before now, our problems in Africa were not those high-end sicknesses that require ventilators.

Malaria, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, these are issues we still have and ventilators wouldn’t have helped us to solve them.”

Meanwhile, as at the time of this report, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has 81 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.

52 of those cases were confirmed in Lagos, Abuja has 14, Ogun and Oyo have three each, Edo, Enugu and Bauchi have two each, while each of Ekiti, Osun and Rivers has one.