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The National Assembly is reviewing plans to get death benefits for the families of healthcare workers who die from COVID-19 in the line of duty, a lawmaker has said.

Speaking during a courtesy visit to the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) on Thursday, Tanko Sununu, the Chairman, House of Representatives committee on health services said lawmakers were looking into what kind of compensation to be given to families of health workers who lost their lives trying to save others.

“We are not unmindful of our health workers in the front line who paid the ultimate price. This is why we are working out a plan to compensate their families,” Mr Sununu said.

Health workers have watched several of their colleagues die while treating people suffering from COVID-19, a rare strain of coronavirus that has killed more than half a million people globally.

The lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) – the gowns, gloves, masks, and aprons – prompted protests among different cadres of the health workforce who are questioning government’s inability to provide the much-needed protection that could have saved lives.

Resident doctors, certified doctors undergoing residency to become consultants, had downed tools in protest over unpaid salaries and a dearth of PPE. JOHESU, a body of other health workers other than doctors have also threatened strike over similar demands.

The government had promised frontline health workers life insurance but this promise has not been kept, according to the president of the National Association of Residents Doctors (NARD), Aliyu Sokomba.

Doctors in Lagos, Nigeria’s coronavirus epicentre, are currently on strike over unpaid wages.

Health workers, being the first respondents to patients, have continued to be at risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Lacking the equipment needed to keep staff and residents safe as well as being unable to maintain social distancing, nearly a 1000 health workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Nigeria. Scores have died.

Hospitals are increasingly becoming unwilling to admit patients for fear of being contaminated.

Compensation

During Thursday’s courtesy visit, the lawmaker explained the compensation plans of the National Assembly for the families of deceased health workers.

“A committee has been set up. We will call for a public hearing where the strategy and method to be used in disbursing the compensations will be agreed on.

“The families of the deceased will be located and we must ensure the money reaches them,” he said.

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Mr Sununu also asked all Nigerian health workers to consider millions of lives being put at risk when they down tools.

He said the House of Representatives has set up a committee to interface in all pending issues concerning the payment and welfare of health workers.

Mr Sununu, a gynecologist, said the committee’s primary responsibility is to ensure that all demands of health workers are met.

Receiving the lawmaker and his entourage, JOHESU national president, Josiah Biobelemoye, said the union is hoping that all pending issues and disagreements are settled through the intervention of the National Assembly.

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