COVID 19: THE NEW CHALLENGE OF HEALTH CARE GLOBALLY

Why would the Corona Virus commonly known as Covid-19 pandemic be the new challenge of Health Care globally? I took my mother to see a doctor at the Primary Health Care Center, Rumuigbo, Port Harcourt during this lockdown, unfortunately. On arrival, I noticed that there were no hand sanitizers placed at entry points for visitors neither were the staff members kitted with nose masks (except the receptionist). Thankfully, our attention was drawn to the liquid soap and water for public use. Before we were allowed to go in, the receptionist looked intently at us and asked “Are you coughing?” as though that was the only symptom of the Corona virus infection. I was bemused. 

Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by Coronavirus which spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. However, infected persons may be asymptomatic within the window period of 2 to 14 days and not present with respiratory symptoms , fever, cough, breathing difficulties and other symptoms associated with Corona virus infection. As a result, several protective measures have been put in place; use of alcohol-based sanitizers, use of nose masks, washing hands properly with soap and water, social distancing, among others which to my greatest surprise this Health Care Centre was not taking seriously. 

For example, when we got into the consulting room, the seats were placed at a good distance from the Doctor which somehow did not surprise me, but he still had no protective mask or hand sanitizer. A short while later, a staff came into the Consulting room and this doctor to whom I was entrusting my mother’s health argued with the staff saying that Covid-19 was airborne and not transmitted by droplets. On getting to the laboratory where my mother was to do the ‘widal’ and ‘malaria parasite’ tests the doctor asked her to do, I noticed the medical laboratory scientist washing hand gloves for reuse instead of disposing them after use. Even the nurses attending to us amusingly said “ See our patient on nose mask meanwhile we don’t have for ourselves”. It was clear that these Staff members were neither prepared physically nor psychologically to handle the Covid-19 Pandemic. 

According to the World Health Organization, health care workers globally need monthly supplies of 89 million masks, 30 million gowns, 1.59 million goggles, 76 million gloves and 2.9 million liters of hand sanitizers to protect themselves and by extension, others from the Corona virus. This is because these Health workers are at the front line of the Covid-19 outbreak response and as such are exposed to hazards that put them at risk of being infected. In a media briefing on the 10th of April 2020, Dr Tedros Adhanom (Director General W.H.O) said 10% of health workers have already been infected by this virus. 

With a statistics of over 2,350,075 Covid-19 cases in over 210 countries all over the world, it shows that health care workers are faced with challenges such as; increased number of patients, long shifts with inadequate rest periods, exposure to this virus, psychological distress, delayed recognition of Covid-19 symptoms and test results, insufficient personal protective equipments, reduced ratio of doctors to patients, among others. Topping this list is the fact that there is no known vaccine to help curb this virus. 

Therefore, Covid-19 is not the challenge of the Health Care globally in my opinion, but rather has revealed the challenge of Health Care globally which includes; lack of medical facilities, slow 

adoption of information technology innovations needed to provide care, poor working conditions, lack of advancement opportunities, insufficient funding, inadequate power supply, poor organizational structure, nonchalant attitude of workers, ratio of health care professional to patients and work overload. 

Most would agree that some of the strongest health systems in the world have been overwhelmed by the pandemic. This shows a lack of preparedness of the entire health system. As you can observe from my experience earlier stated, if the Primary Health Care Center which is supposed to be the first point of call to people is not prepared to face the challenge (Covid-19) then the Health workers are vulnerable. “When Health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk”, hence the need to tackle the real challenge of the health care system by training health workers, providing personal protective equipments and financial support to health workers. 

Understanding that every health system is vulnerable is key and we should have the humility to see to what extent our system is prepared and how we can improve on it for the future.

Dorcas Bobmanuel