Mrs Ola Soremekun is the newly elected chairperson of the Forum of Local Government Nurses and Midwives, Lagos State Chapter. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, she laments the huge number of nurses who died while caring for COVID-19 patients and suggests that they should be immortalised. She also speaks on diverse issues affecting the nursing profession in Nigeria, with particular emphasis on the bane of quackery.
Congratulations on your emergence as the new Lagos FOLGONM Chairperson. How do you feel about this new achievement?
Well like any individual who has successfully attained a goal, I am happy. However, I know that my role as the spokesperson of our group is a daunting one. The shoes I am stepping into are big and must fit.
Right now I am thinking of how best to communicate the union’s vision, direction and goals to everyone, in an attempt to introduce better harmony, cohesion and unity of purpose among our members. I also intend to be a good listener who seeks out the views and ideas of fellow executive members as well as those of the generality of our members.
You emerged at a critical time, considering the ongoing global pandemic. With the experience gathered so far from this outbreak, how should nursing at the grassroots be positioned for maximum delivery?
The Lagos State government has prepared our members, with extensive training on COVID-19 protocols, which has equipped us with the needed knowledge to continue to create public enlightenment campaigns across its 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas, as part of measures to halt community transmission of COVID-19.
We are still telling our people that regardless of the gradual easing of the lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic is real and every member of the community needs to obey the guidelines of preventing being infected.
It is not about the individual alone but about all of us. We all need to take responsibility for our lives. It is disheartening seeing community members throwing caution to the winds after the partial lifting of the lockdown.
People troop to banks, markets, malls and functions, without exercising caution, despite the ravaging effects of the pandemic.
Public enlightenment campaign is still continuing and I hope our people will obey all rules and regulations on COVID-19 to keep our communities safe. We were part of the process right from the beginning and we are not relenting on our efforts to stem the tide.
2020 is designated as the year of nurses and midwives. In what ways has this mission been actualised at the primary health centres?
2020 was designated as “The Year of the Nurse and Midwife” by the WHO, to push for better recognition for nurses and midwives in an effort to increase the global nursing workforce.
Nurses and midwives make up more than half the healthcare workforce worldwide, and the WHO estimates that this year there will be a shortage of nearly nine million nurses.
As the world faces growing healthcare shortages, particularly with advent of COVID-19, among other diseases plaguing the world, there are ambitious efforts being made to reach a goal of universal health coverage around the world by 2030.
All countries, Nigeria inclusive, must understand that nurses need to be on the frontline for any success to be achieved. We had hoped to have fantastic programmes which would have drawn more attention to nurses but, alas, we’ve lost more members to COVID-19 than any other disease worldwide.
We have said that clapping is not enough. Something unique should be done for our members particularly, those we lost to one disease or the other while caring for others. The case of Justina Ejelonu readily comes to mind and, recently, Com. Amusan, who died while caring for persons suffering from COVID-19. These people, like Nightingale, are martyrs who fell in the battle to curtail Ebola and COVID-19 among others.
What is your plan for local government nurses in Lagos?
As I said earlier, I have a vision before contesting and the realisation of the vision is paramount to me. Collectively, my team intends to draw more attention to the plight of nurses, with the hope that we will find better succour and satisfaction from working as nurses, either with the government or in private practice.
We can speak with one voice when we are united and work towards achieving our goals together. This we intend pursuing.
I believe in dialogue, as it is always better to jaw-jaw than war-war. The foundation of a new dawn has been laid with our emergence and we are poised for better performance and uplifting of our profession.
There is this perception about the attitude of nurses in public hospitals – that they are not caring enough. How do you intend to correct this among your members?
Attitude of nurses! Well, the issue of the attitude of nurses has always been a recurring decimal. I must let you know that most of the havoc said to have been committed by nurses are actually done by quacks who pose as nurses and this is why we must work harder to eliminate all these quacks who tannish the image of nurses.
The movie industry too has been involved in projecting nurses in a bad image. Some musicians are not left out of this irritating behaviour too.
Be that as it may, it would not be surprising that a professional group as large as nursing should have one or two bad eggs. However our association has established committees whose responsibility is to ensure that nurses adhere strictly to the rules and regulations guiding our practice. In today’s nursing practice, we’ve had a few who have been used as scapegoats to serve as deterrent to other would-be law breakers.
Nursing, like other healthcare professions, has stringent rules and regulations guiding its scope of practice. Some nurses have been suspended, some dismissed while some have had their licences withdrawn when they were found guilty of one offence or the other. The new face of nursing is a sunny disposition and patients are treated as kings.
Still on the roles of nurses in the COVID-19 pandemic, what are the challenges being encountered? How would government intervention help the situation going forward?
You and I know that the virus that causes COVID-19 pandemic burst onto the world stage unexpectedly, quickly becoming a global pandemic and grinding entire cities, states, and economies to a halt.
The suddenness of the coronavirus caught many off-guard; but fortunately, the largest trained contingent of healthcare workers around the world were already on the job, trying to stem the tide of this terrifying pandemic.
As nurses, we were there for the Spanish Flu, Polio, Ebola, and now, we stand between COVID-19 and the rest of the world. We are always prepared for any health challenges, contagious or not.
As nurses, we are always prepared for leadership roles in policy decisions of health systems and government agencies, and can prepare for, identify, respond to, and direct recovery efforts for global pandemics that require an informed, internationally coordinated response.
In other words, nurses are (and have always been) uniquely equipped to deal with the prolonged crisis of a pandemic, and our presence on the frontlines is one of our greatest defence against diverse diseases.
Without nurses, nothing much can be achieved in terms of health indices. As professional nurses, we care yesterday, today and tomorrow; and caring for others in ill-health and other situations (from cradle to the grave) is what we do and that’s our responsibility.