Plans afoot to scale up on essential health services

.FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

.FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Published Aug 18, 2020


DURBAN - While the health service platform must remain geared to deal with Covid-19 pandemic, experts are urging countries to balance the demands of responding directly to the pandemic and also scale up to other essential health services.

According to a Covid-19 statement, by the standing committee on health of the Academy of Science of South Africa, published in the latest issue of the SA Journal of Science.

“The human resources shift to Covid-19 has resulted in limited services for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of other health issues. Until there is a vaccine or a cure, Covid-19 might be among us for a while. Finite resources cannot be diverted solely to the pandemic.”

In a statement released by the Western Cape Health department Chronic disease management (Diabetes, Hypertension, etc.), HIV and TB management, Child and Women’s health (including immunizations) have seen significant reduction in uptake. When comparing April 2020 to April 2019:

A 68 percent less persons visiting primary health care facilities in the Metro and 37 percent in the Rural

A 51 percent reduction in elective surgical procedures in the Metro and 42 percent in the Rural

A 48 percent reduction in emergency visits in the Metro and 40 percent in the Rural

46 percent less outpatient visits in the Metro and 52 percent less in the Rural

The Department said it is particularly concerned about a reduction in essential and basic primary healthcare services including:

A 22% reduction in immunisations

A 36% reduction in screening for TB

“These services which had reduced significantly during the pandemic will have a significant long term impact for those clients who had missed immunisations, follow-up appointments and scheduled non-emergency treatment,”

“These scaled-up activities will not only take place in our health facilities but will also be undertaken as part of community-oriented primary care (COPC). This approach is marked by community healthcare workers visiting patients in their neighbourhoods and homes and undertaking screening activities (which will include Covid-19 screening),” said the department.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) says countries should identify context-relevant essential health services that will be prioritized for continuation during the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic in order to avert indirect morbidity and mortality and prevent acute exacerbation of chronic conditions when services are disrupted.

Since the lockdown, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has shown a 48 percent decline in testing for TB and 33 percent reduction in newly-diagnosed positive cases.

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