Five doctors working out of a private hospital in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, claim they are being forced to continue working there and cannot return to their homes in India. The doctors have aroused the ire of the leadership at the hospital, who accuse the doctors of wanting to abandon patients out of fear of Ebola.
The Times of India reports that the hospital, Primus Super Specialty Hospital, has yet to see cases of Ebola and is a significant distance away from the city of Lagos, where the first patient to die in Nigeria of Ebola landed after flying in from Liberia. As such, administrators are adamant that doctors must continue to perform their services, and has issued an advisory that they must not leave the hospital for “the best interest of humanity.”
The hospital has confirmed that at least one doctor has fled the hospital. The director of the hospital told The Times of India:
Unfortunately, in a state of panic, one orthopedic surgeon working at Primus Hospital, Abuja, Nigeria abandoned his services and is alleged to have left Abuja committing medical negligence though he was bound by the medical ethics to provide care to patients admitted under him.
The Hindu, another prominent Indian newspaper, interviewed the doctors, who argued that they simply wanted to work as doctors in India and were being threatened with having their passports withheld. “We are not being forced to treat Ebola patients because there have not been any Ebola cases in Abuja … but there have been in Lagos, which is not far from here. Should we wait for the Ebola virus to reach Abuja? We have family waiting for us in India … and we want to go back,” said one doctor.
The hospital has denied that it is withholding passports, instead condemning the doctors for wanting to go home.
The controversy follows news that the Ebola virus has taken its third victim in Nigeria, a member of the West African regional body Ecowas who had traveled to Nigeria along with Liberian official Patrick Sawyer, who died shortly after landing in Lagos. In addition to the three who have died–Sawyer, a nurse treating him, and the passenger flying with him–eight other individuals have been confirmed to carry the virus and, The Guardian reports, 200 other individuals are being watched for symptoms. Nigeria has been on high alert for a potential Ebola epidemic since Patrick Sawyer arrived.
Nigeria has declared a state of emergency and issued new security measures to attempt to keep the nation as Ebola-free as possible. The Federal Executive Commission of the nation approved of a new screening measure at airports this week: full body scanners at designated points of entry around the country that could harbor increased potential for spreading the disease in highly populated areas.
In addition to fighting the virus itself, Nigerian law enforcement has increased its surveillance over religious groups and individuals attempting to exploit the Ebola outbreak for their personal benefit. Some pastors and herbalists have begun advertising and offering at high prices what they claim to be Ebola “cures,” a practice Nigerian authorities have repeatedly announced could lead to jail.