Sterling Bank Plc, Nigeria’s leading commercial bank, has launched a N1billion Health Workers’ Fund to support frontline healthcare professionals who are taking care of persons infected with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
To kick-start the fund, the bank donated N25 million while some public-spirited individuals have also donated N2 million, bringing the amount raised so far to N27 million.
Abubakar Suleiman, chief executive officer of Sterling Bank, who disclosed this over the weekend while addressing a virtual press conference hosted by the bank, enjoined well-meaning and public-spirited Nigerians to contribute to the fund through the website of Giving.ng, a crowdfunding platform.
Citing the unusually high rate of cases of healthcare workers infected by the virus in the course of treating patients in countries like Spain and Italy, Suleiman said it was imperative that tangible efforts are made to protect the healthcare personnel at the frontline of fighting the infection, especially given their low number in the country.
“There was a particular point in Spain when 14 percent of those infected were healthcare workers, and we felt that if we were to have that level of infection among the limited number of healthcare workers in the country, the effect would be far-reaching and disastrous. So, we decided to intervene.”
According to Suleiman, the bank understands that getting the money with which to pay healthcare workers on the frontline and acquire protective equipment for them is critical. Consequently, the bank will work with experts in public health or connected with the healthcare system to identify the healthcare workers who are deserving of this intervention, he said.
“Combating COVID-19 is beyond the capacity of any single institution or sector. It is a crisis that is stretching the capacity of healthcare infrastructure and personnel world over. And stopping this pandemic requires the elimination of boundaries to resources. One way to do that is by setting funds aside to support brave medical responders at this time,” he added.
Expressing the hope that the fund would trigger a better way to treat health workers in the country, he disclosed that the bank had set up an independent Governance Board made up of seasoned health professionals to administer the fund while the bank concentrates on raising funds from various donors.
“Although we started the process, we have pulled back. We have set up a board that I am incredibly proud of. They will join us in solving this problem which is the most important part and they are highly respected, which makes the process credible,” Suleiman said.
Also Olaokun Soyinka, chairman of the governing board, commending Sterling Bank for setting up the health workers’ intervention fund, promised that the board would evolve rapidly to stay ahead of COVID-19 developments and discharge its duty transparently.