COVID-19: THE NEW CHALLENGE OF HEALTHCARE GLOBALLY

Corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is an infectious disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) belonging to the Coronaviridae family of viruses. Viruses within this family are enveloped positive sense single stranded RNA viruses and are known to cause respiratory illnesses. SARS and MERS are also members of this family. 

Covid-19 was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, China. Since its identification, covid-19 has been reported in many countries around the globe. This it owes to its mode of transmission— human-to-human transmission and via fomites. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the current coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. 

As a novel virus (previously unknown to humankind) affecting a large percentage of human population, it has posed a challenge to various aspects of human endeavours including economy, education, sports, entertainment, and health etc. These challenges are varied and far reaching. This essay seeks to explore the challenges posed by the pandemic on healthcare. 

The challenges on healthcare may be classified as either immediate challenges that are felt in real time as the virus spreads or Long term challenges which will be seen after the pandemic. 

Immediate challenges: 

Diagnostic challenge 

Covid-19 symptoms (fever, weakness, cough, and body aches) are not restricted to Covid-19 but can be seen in other diseases. Therefore proper diagnosis depends now on availability of machinery and techniques specific and sensitive to SARS-CoV-2 and competent manpower. The WHO has published several testing protocols for the disease. The standard method of testing is real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR). Due to the high sensitivity of this diagnostic method, the slightest DNA contamination can lead to undesirable results. This necessitates the need for adequate staff training and equipping of facilities for proper diagnosis, preventing false-positive and false-negative results. 

Containment challenge 

The rapid spread of Covid-19 has gained it the status of a pandemic. This spread has proved to be a formidable challenge to healthcare. In order to forestall the spread, there has to be a shift towards public health whilst maintaining high levels of individualised care for patients. Public health measures like government regulations and support, screening, and health surveillance need to be promoted. Also there is a challenge of media to reach the populace and enlightening them on the merits of complying to government regulations. 

Management challenge 

As of the time of writing this essay, there are no known approved targeted therapy for combating Covid- 19 although several drugs are in various phases of trial. Availability of drugs and other forms of targeted therapy against SARS-CoV-2 still remain major problems for health workers. Many clinicians have now resorted to the use of palliative care and reintroduction of withdrawn drugs but are now puzzled with dosage and side effect management. There is also the challenge of availability of ventilators since ventilators are essential in the management of complicated forms of the disease. 

Health workers' safety challenge. 

Because of major economic depression there are evidences of drop in goods production. This drop has led to consequent fall in the availability of Personal Protective Equipment for health staff. These health staff are forefront in the battle against Covid-19 and need these for protection against contacting the virus. 

Long term challenge 

Foreign aid dependence. 

As a result of the spread of the virus to many countries including ‘strong’ and ‘weak' economies, there would be a cut in medical aid and donations given to poor countries. This cut would as a result of wealthy countries and donors conserving to annul the effects created by the pandemic . Third world countries like those found in sub-Saharan Africa who rely mainly on staff and personnel provided by other countries and international agencies like Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and USAIDS would suffer major setbacks in healthcare even after resolution of the outbreak. 

CONCLUSION 

Covid-19 has affected many aspects of the economy. Adequate control of its effects require a precise control of its spread and reduction of mortality associated with the disease. These in turn, depends on how prepared and equipped the healthcare system of a country is. Therefore governments and private donors should emphasise on strengthening healthcare services through donations and policies that will foster improvement in healthcare.

OFFOR MCFORTUNE