Essential Health Systems Have Been Disrupted by the Pandemic

Essential Health Systems Have Been Disrupted by the Pandemic

Due to the health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus, nine out of ten countries have had to interrupt some essential health services in the last year, according to an assessment by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The need to focus human and economic resources to face the COVID-19 pandemic has caused “substantial interruptions” in one or more essential health services to persist in 90% of nations, reports the Inter Press Service news agency.

The services with the most interruptions (mentioned by more than 40% of the countries) were HIV / AIDS, hepatitis B and C, cancer screening, mental disorders, tuberculosis, and tropical diseases.

Areas that serve non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, and family planning services have also been affected. Even urgent dental care and attention to malnutrition have been impacted.

Surgeries, critical and emergency medical care have been discontinued in 20% of countries, and two-thirds of nations have also discontinued elective surgeries. This, says the international body, reflects one of the most immediate indirect consequences that the pandemic has had.

In a third of the countries of the world, vaccination schedules that do not have to do with COVID-19 were paused at some point, this can generate a long-term impact on the health of children. “We cannot allow today’s fight against COVID-19 to undermine our fight against measles, polio, or other vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Henrietta Fore, Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In part, the interruptions in services were due to the fact that people did not seek medical attention due to mistrust or fear of infection; this happened in more than half of the countries.

Similarly, more than half of the 135 countries surveyed by WHO said that additional staff had to be hired to maintain health services, and they switched from traditional methods to alternative ones, such as home visits, delivery of treatments for several months, and increased use of telemedicine.

The first report, carried out in August 2020, found that half of the essential services were interrupted. In the first quarter of 2021, the figure dropped to a third.