By Francis Onoh
Isolation centers are called isolation centers for a reason. To ‘isolate’ means to remove from the rest. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines ‘isolation’ as the practice of separating sick persons with a contagious disease from people who are not sick; while ‘quarantine’ is the restriction of the movement of people who might be exposed to a contagious disease, in order to prevent them from contracting the disease. Because, some persons do contract diseases without knowing it, in such a way that they expand the windows for the spread of the disease, isolation and quarantine help to protect the public by preventing the exposure of ‘healthy’ persons to those who have already contracted a contagious disease.
The Pride of the Southeast, the Coal City State and my dear state Enugu … in a desperate need to fill the gap in the state’s health sector, has designated the long abandoned Colliery Hospital, (which is now part of Enugu State University of Science and Technology Teaching Hospital) as an isolation center for the state. Whereas there is no doubt that the intention of the government is not ill willed, some sort of oversight of laid down procedures for selecting or designating a location as an isolation seem to have been at play in the siting of the isolation center at the aforementioned location; and this may result in catastrophic outcome both for residents of the aforementioned location and for the entire state at large.
For purpose of protecting lives and minimizing the dangers of possible community outbreaks, the outskirts of a state or geopolitical region is normally reserved for the treatment of infectious diseases and establishment of isolation centers. The reason is simple: these locations are usually devoid of intensive human activities. The idea of locating isolation center in the outskirts of a geopolitical region is not one that came up in recent times nor is it a novel phenomenon. Indeed similar directives were given, even in the scriptures, with regard to isolating those with contagious diseases like leprosy. Lepers and persons with diseases that could spread across the community of the biblical Israel were mandated to live outside the camp and far from the cities (cf. Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5: 2-3; 2 Chronicles 26:21 and Luke 17:22). People with contagious infections are kept separately, not as a form of rejection or segregation, but for love and protection of the greater number who remain uninfected by the disease. Moving away from the biblical times and coming to more recent outbreaks; epidemics such as Ebola, Lassa fever that has bedeviled countries in the tropical region of the world was contained by moving infected people to remote areas; to centers far off from where intensive economic and human activities took place.
The choice of the aged long Colliery Hospital as a center for the isolation of COVID 19 patients is a good willed decision but on the wrong location. This is because as indicated earlier, isolation centers need to be sited at locations that are far removed from city centers and or in places that experience less human activities. Colliery Hospital which was used in the active days of coal mining and since then left to decay until the bitter experience of the death of an aged UK returnee who was suspected to be a COVID-19 patient, is situated directly opposite a big market and a very busy motor park (thanks to the present Enugu State Government that renovated the then dilapidated Miliken Hill Road). The location of these two establishments (Motor Park and Market) means that it is inapt to site a contagious disease isolation center there. Such will endanger a greater number of Enugu residents that trade in the busy market (a market, which is of a great economic importance to the state); as well as the many numbers that ply the road on daily basis.Considering the large numbers of person present in the ever busy market and motor park, and with the rampant experience of COVID-19 infected persons escaping from poorly secured hospitals and isolation centers across the country; siting an isolation center at the Colliery Hospital would be a catalyst to engender a community outbreak, should it be the case that similar occurrence takes place. Besides, there is also the fear that hospital wastes channeled wrongly, will contaminate the water flowing in that area, which is not only used to cultivate vegetables and other farm produce sold at the same market, but also used for daily household chores by the people living within the vicinity. Furthermore, the portable water distribution services, managed by the Water Corporation of the State is also not far from this newly designated isolation center. In other words, there is likewise a potential health danger lurking for the rest of Enugu residents who depend on the aforementioned water distribution services for their daily portable water. All these can cause a large scale pandemic within our dear state and beyond
The establishment of an isolation center is not what is done every time, it is done once and if it has to be done at this unique time in our history, it ought to be done right. An isolation center is usually sited off from a densely populated area. It is not discriminatory to situate isolation centers from places far off from the cities; on the contrary it is a show of love and protection for those who aren’t yet infected by the disease. Of course, those who undergo isolation will at the end of their isolation period, need to come back to a healthy society, where the risk of re-contracting the disease will be minimal. Thus, in situating an isolation center at locations far away from city centers, we also guarantee the protection of those infected who in our positive frame of mind will come back to rejoin the rest of society. In other words, we avoid jeopardizing or re-exposing the health of those who recover to the threats occasioned by siting isolation centers close to residential areas where they will return to.
Whereas I will not fail to appreciate the leaders of our state and the great heart they have showed to the residents of our dear state, it is yet necessary to always throw light to our leaders in times like this. It is believed that the above explanations will nudge and perhaps convince the decision making team of Enugu State to reconsider the choice of situating the isolation center of the state at Colliery Hospital. A complete new location, removed from the city and where human activities are to the barest minimum, should be considered and chosen. While a new location for the isolation center is been sought out, the renovation going on at the Colliery Hospital should be used to expand the capacity of the already overcrowded Enugu State University Teaching Hospital Parklane, whose emergency unit remains a death trap.
In conclusion, we need to continue appreciating the effort of the government of Enugu State especially, as regards the quick response in curtailing the spread of the present day COVID-19, and we remain hopeful that we will overcome this challenge together with the strength of God and the good will of the people of Enugu State.
Isolation Center should be in quarantined Region, it is called Isolation Center for a reason
Chukwu gozie unu.
Francis Onoh (KSM) wrote from Enugu and you can reach him at email@example.com