The World Health Organisation has released guidelines to help countries maintain essential health services during the Coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, disclosed this on the agency’s official Twitter account @WHO on Monday.
According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic is straining health systems worldwide. Ghebreyesus tweeted: “The rapidly increasing demand on health facilities and health care workers threatens to leave some health systems overstretched and unable to operate effectively.
“Previous outbreaks have demonstrated that when health systems are overwhelmed, mortality from vaccine-preventable and other treatable conditions can also increase dramatically.”
During the 2014 to 2015 Ebola outbreak, he said the increased number of deaths caused by measles, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis attributable to health system failures exceeded deaths from Ebola.
“The best defense against any outbreak is a strong health system. COVID-19 is revealing how fragile many of the world’s health systems and services are, forcing countries to make difficult choices on how to best meet the needs of their people,” Ghebreyesus added.
He said to help countries navigate through these challenge, WHO had updated operational planning guidelines in balancing the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, while maintaining essential health service delivery.
He said: “This includes a set of targeted immediate actions that countries should consider at national, regional, and local level to reorganise and maintain access to high-quality essential health services for all.
“Countries should identify essential services that will be prioritised in their efforts to maintain continuity of service delivery and make strategic shifts to ensure that increasingly limited resources provide maximum benefit for the population.
“They also need to comply with the highest standard in precautions, especially in hygiene practices, and the provision of adequate supplies including personal protective equipment.
“This requires robust planning and coordinated actions between governments and health facilities and their managers.’’
The director-general said some examples of essential services included: routine vaccination; reproductive health services including care during pregnancy and childbirth; care of young infants and older adults; management of mental health conditions.
“Also, management of noncommunicable diseases and infectious diseases like HIV, malaria and TB; critical inpatient therapies; management of emergency health conditions; auxiliary services like basic diagnostic imaging, laboratory services, and blood bank services, among others.”
In addition, Ghebreyesus said well-organised and prepared health systems could continue to provide equitable access to essential service delivery throughout an emergency, limiting direct mortality and avoiding increased indirect mortality.
He tweeted: “The guidelines stress the importance of keeping up-to-date information.
“This requires frequent transparent communications with the public, and strong community engagements so the public can maintain trust in the system to safely meet their essential needs and to control infection risk in health facilities.
“This will help ensure that people continue to seek care when appropriate, and adhere to public health advice.”