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Covid-19 health services disruptions in over 100 countries

More than 90% of countries have seen ordinary health services disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

More than 90% of countries have seen ordinary health services disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Published Sep 1, 2020

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DURBAN - More than 90 percent of countries have seen ordinary health services disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, a World Health Organization survey showed. The report was based on 105 countries.

In low-income countries like South Africa health services which experienced significant disruptions, included cancer screening, treatment and HIV therapy. This is as a result of resources being redirected to community and facility-based screening, testing, contact tracing and emergency care for Covid-19.

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In a bid to lessen the burden on the healthcare system, new regulations were amended to allow prescriptions to be extended for up to 12 months. A new delivery service was introduced in some areas of the Western Cape and in turn, the government reported successful delivery of over 240,000 chronic medication packages by mid-June.

Countries on average experienced disruptions in 50 percent of a set of 25 tracer services. The most frequently disrupted areas reported included routine immunization – outreach services by 70 percent and facility-based services by 61 percent. Non-communicable diseases diagnosis and treatment saw a 69 percent disruption, family planning and contraception 68 percent, treatment for mental health disorders 61 percent while cancer diagnosis and treatment saw a 55 percent disruption.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said: “The survey shines a light on the cracks in our health systems, but it also serves to inform new strategies to improve healthcare provision during the pandemic and beyond.

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Covid-19 should be a lesson to all countries that health is not an ‘either-or’ equation. We must better prepare for emergencies but also keep investing in health systems that fully respond to people’s needs throughout the life course."

Countries also reported a 46 percent disruption in Malaria diagnosis and treatment, 42 percent disruption in Tuberculosis case detection and treatment and antiretroviral treatment was disrupted by 32 percent. While some areas of health care, such as dental care and rehabilitation, may have been deliberately suspended in line with government protocols, the disruption of many of the other services is expected to have harmful effects on population health in the short-medium- and long-term.

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