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Tackling challenges of claustrophobia in Benue FMC’s way

Sufferers of infectious diseases are often prone to claustrophobia, generally referred to as the irrational fear of confined spaces.

Health professionals believe that people affected by claustrophobia will often go out of their way to avoid confined spaces, such as being kept in hospital isolation units.

Our correspondent reports that highly infectious diseases, such as Lassa fever, Monkey pox, Ebola, COVID-19, amongst others, require that the patients be isolated in a health facility while undergoing treatment to curb infection spread.

But, many hospitals in Nigeria until the emergence of the coronavirus in 2020 could scarcely boast of an isolation centre, let alone equipping same.

It was no wonder many Nigerians were in denial of their ill-health status during the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country as lots of patients feared been taken into uncomfortable facilities for a period of time.

In Benue State, the challenge of getting infectious disease patients to hospital isolation unit was twice harder than convincing them that their condition was devoid of spiritual attacks.

So, the COVID-19 era poised a double challenge for both medical practitioners and health facilities in the state as they were neither enough nor overstretched.

To curb the challenge and remain prepared for any future eventuality, the management of Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi in Benue State took the bull by the horn, Daily Trust learnt.

Today, patients suffering from any infectious disease would need not to panic about being isolated as the FMC in Makurdi now provides a home-away-from-home Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for claustrophobic patients.

The facility, which is under the Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Makurdi, Dr Peteru Inunduh, set the pace which today scored the facility high for recording fewer COVID-19 deaths during the first wave of the disease in the country.

FMC’s Head of Clinical Services, Dr Enye Agada, who led top management of the hospital to conduct journalists around nearly 30 major projects carried out under Inunduh’s eight years headship, disclosed that it lost 10 out of over 245 COVID-19 patients admitted in its ICU during the peak period.

She said under two weeks, the management was able to constitute an outbreak response team and converted a newly constructed a male ward at FMC permanent site in Apir into an ICU.

“We had one of the best management for COVID-19 in the country. And that’s why we had fewer deaths during the COVID-19 era,” she added.

Enye said the successful management of the coronavirus was one of the high points of Inunduh’s leadership which further propelled the building of a big edifice as an isolation centre for infectious diseases.

She added that it is, “A place that is comfortable such that staff can stay isolated with their patients for one week before they can go out. It’s constructed in a way that challenges of claustrophobia we had the last time is solved.

“Now, patients can come out to relax but still separated from the public. And in readiness too, there’s one of our staff undergoing training on infectious disease control at the Jos University Teaching Hospital and is expected to return in October. So, under his lead, we’re good to go.”

At the new centre, exposure therapy had been created around the lawns of the car park for patients to exercise and talk to relatives from a safe distance across the fence.

To this end, the CMD, who will be retiring soon, said the feat achieved since his coming on board in 2015 was premised on his management’s policy through which there was massive infrastructural development.

He also said the expansion covered the FMC owned facilities in rural areas of the state, adding that within the period, over 400 human capital had been trained and retrained in various specialties for efficient service delivery.

Inunduh added that the health institution under his watch constructed the Infectious Disease Care Centre (IDCC), otherwise known as isolation centre for treatment of cases such as Lassa fever, Yellow fever, Cholera, Monkey pox, COVID-19 among others and would make a clear difference in the health sector for a very long time.

Meanwhile, the International Organisation for Standards (IOS)’s approved world-class standard centre edifice for infectious diseases at the hospital is now ready for use.

He said the research laboratory located in the facility has been expanded with capacity to diagnose COVID-19, Lassa fever, hepatitis and hoped Ebola disease will also be included soon.

Some of the projects executed under Inunduh include renovated Accidents and Emergency unit, mega theatre, molecular laboratory, nutrition block, infectious disease control centre, among others all at the Apir permanent site while the dialysis unit, paediatrics and neonatal ward, amenity ward, endoscopic/laparoscopy among others are situated at the main centre located at Wadata area of Makurdi.