.
.
.
.
Coronavirus

WHO: Essential healthcare services still face ‘significant’ disruption amid pandemic

Published: Updated:

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems are still facing challenges in providing people with essential services, the World Health Organization said in a report released on Monday.

The WHO found that 90 percent of countries that were surveyed in the third round of its Global Pulse survey, which focuses on the continuity of essential healthcare services during the pandemic, were experiencing ongoing disruptions.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The organization’s findings are based on preliminary results from 129 countries, territories and areas that took part in the WHO Global pulse service conducted between November and December 2021. Around 223 countries, territories and areas were invited to participate in the survey but only 58 percent (129 countries) contributed to the report.

The disruptions reported were related to maternal, sexual, reproductive, newborn, children and adolescent health as well as immunization, cancer care, nutrition, mental, neurological and substance use disorders, HIV, hepatitis, malaria and care for older people.

Even as coronavirus vaccinations have stepped up recently, “increased disruptions were reported in routine immunization services,” according to the report.

The survey, which looked at 66 core health services across multiple delivery platforms and health areas, found that health systems in countries of all income levels “continue to be severely impacted, with little to no improvement since early 2021,” around the time of the last survey, the report said.

IV bag hanging in a hospital. (Unsplash, Insung Yoon)
IV bag hanging in a hospital. (Unsplash, Insung Yoon)

Some of the major barriers to the health sector’s recovery include pre-existing issues in health systems which have been worsened by the pandemic and the decreased demand for care.

Disruption to all healthcare settings

More than half of the countries surveyed reported disruptions in all healthcare settings, with some countries reporting that many people were still unable to access primary or community care levels.

Some nations reported significant disruptions to emergency services, with 36 percent of the countries surveyed reported disruptions to ambulance services while 32 percent to 24-hour emergency room services.

The report’s findings also indicated that 56 percent of the countries surveyed experienced disruption in elective surgeries, which can have severe accumulating consequences on health and wellbeing, which is especially problematic because the world is still living through the pandemic. Around half of the countries surveyed also reported that they were grappling with disruptions to rehabilitative care and palliative care.

Health workforce ‘facing exhaustion,’ infection with COVID-19

“The survey highlighted health workforce issues as the biggest barriers to access to COVID-19 tools, likely caused by health workers facing exhaustion, being infected with COVID-19 or leaving the workforce,” the report read.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Nurse holds a COVID-19 test swab. (Unsplash, JC Gellidon)
Nurse holds a COVID-19 test swab. (Unsplash, JC Gellidon)

Over 50 percent of the countries surveyed reported health workforce challenges for diagnostics and testing and COVID-19 therapeutics and treatments.

“Demand-side challenges, such as lack of community acceptance, access and affordability, are the most frequently reported bottlenecks for COVID-19 vaccination. Fifty-eight per cent of countries reported demand-side challenges as a main bottleneck to COVID-19 vaccine access and 35 percent reported health workforce challenges,” the report added.

Some other challenges reported include lack of funding, data, information, strategies and guidance as well as supply and equipment shortages.

Recovery plans underway

All countries that were surveyed are in the process of devising and adopting strategies to overcome disruptions and recover services that were affected during the time.

An Ethiopian Airlines Cargo terminal worker offloads a shipment of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines that arrived under the COVAX scheme, at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 19, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
An Ethiopian Airlines Cargo terminal worker offloads a shipment of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines that arrived under the COVAX scheme, at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 19, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

According to the WHO, these include strengthening health workforce training and capacities, providing home-based or telehealth services, procuring essential medicines and health products, implementing risk communications and community engagement strategies and health financing strategies.

WHO will continue to support countries to address priority health system needs to transition towards recovery, end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future health emergencies,” the report read, reiterating that even moderate disruptions to essential healthcare services could lead to negative consequences on health and wellbeing.

Read more:

Too many masks: WHO cites glut of waste from COVID response

Immunity reaches peak in two weeks after third COVID-19 vaccine dose: Saudi official

Expo 2020 Dubai to host ‘Terry Fox Run’ for World Cancer Day

Top Content Trending