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Hospital Stand Off in Nigeria On E-Bola Virus, Not an issue with Nigerian Govt – Indian High Commission Asks Hospital to return Passports of Indian doctors

By TN Ashok    Diplomatic Editor

New Delhi, Aug 13: The Indian foreign office today clarified that the stand-off between Indian doctors and a hospital they were working in Nigeria did not concern the Nigerian government as the hospital was Indian owned and run by Indian management on a foreign soil.

“ The Indian high commission in the capital town of Nigeria, Abuja, has directed the hospital to return the passports to Indian doctors as the hospital had no legal  right to hold onto their passports” Syed Akbaruddin, official spokesman of the Indian External Affairs Ministry told newspersons today.

Four Indian doctors, Yogesh Chandra, Dinesh Kumar, Hemant Jingar, and Kapil Chouhan, have claimed they were being forced to treat Ebola virus affected patients against their will and without proper safety medical kits and approached the Indian embassy in Abuja for help.

“We have been waiting outside the embassy without food since (Tuesday) morning, but there is no official word. We will not go back to the hospital, as they may push false charges against us to ensnare us in a legal tangle,” one of the doctors, Dinesh Kumar, told a regional newspaper published from New Delhi, the capital city of India.

The doctors alleged that the Primus Hospital in the Nigerian capital Abuja had taken away their passports and was forcing them to treat Ebola patients, a fact denied by the private medical facility. With the virus spreading across the country, they feared for their lives. Indian doctors were forced to treat patients since local physicians – who were on a strike – refused to come back to work when the Ebola epidemic broke out, they claimed.

The external affairs ministry spokesman said that though no official advisory had been issued for Indians in Abuja to return home as the E Bola virus was mostly localised in Lagos, another sprawling city of Nigeria. The option of indian citizens working in Nigeria leaving their jobs and returning to India was now left to them.

As for the doctors, the spokesman said, there might be legal issues involved for any of the doctors to return home as they were in the midst of treating patients affected by the virus as families of the patients or patients themselves could move for legal remedy.

Meanwhile , the prospects for some of the Indian doctors to be released from the hospital became bright as Nigerian public sector doctors on Thursday suspended a nearly five-week long strike over an Ebola outbreak which has killed two people and infected five others in Lagos.

A statement from the National Medical Association union listed “the incursion of Ebola into Nigeria” as a main reason for suspending the strike, a foreign agency reported. The emergence of Ebola in Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city with more than 20 million people, has created further panic over the worst ever outbreak of the deadly tropical disease.

The densely-populated city is reportedly having a weak public health system which experts say is poorly equipped to manage a significant number of Ebola patients.

If Lagos sees more Ebola cases, public hospitals will need to be operational if Nigeria hopes to contain a spread of the virus, officials claimed. Since the beginning of the year Ebola has killed nearly 1,000 people and infected more than 1,700, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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