Globally, healthcare companies have been greatly affected by the growing demands of the coronavirus pandemic. Governments and health organizations have diverted medical staff and resources to facilitate and offer treatment for patients diagnosed or suspected of COVID-19. As a result, supplies and health staff dedicated to COVID-19 efforts have compromised other areas of health systems.
One of the adverse effects of the intensified COVID-19 treatment is the growing fear to access healthcare facilities because of virus exposure. But misinformation can also worsen these fears. For example, the West African Ebola epidemic led to skyrocketing cases of mortality and morbidity in non-Ebola diseases, such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and measles. Studies revealed that lack of access to healthcare services became the reason these diseases outnumbered the Ebola cases.
As we learn from history, the healthcare community needs to implement techniques that will reduce non-COVID illnesses and deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. This article will discuss the strategies to eliminate the effects of COVID-19 in healthcare services and maintain the delivery of non-COVID-19 health services.
Strategies to limit the effects of COVID-19 on healthcare services
Imagine this situation: A senior citizen suffering from a digestive problem requires urgent access to a hospital offering endoscopy and colonoscopy services. In some areas, governments strongly advise citizens over 60 to stay at home as they are one of the vulnerable targets of COVID-19. In this case, how can health providers ensure non-COVID-19 patients maintain assess to health services while staying safe from the imminent dangers of the pandemic?
Healthcare authorities play an important role in establishing health measures to reduce the effects of COVID-19. This includes patients requiring essential medical services in different healthcare settings. In turn, businesses that offer healthcare services should focus on preventing the spread of COVIV-19 in their facilities.
The first area of focus is to prioritize locations responsible for reducing the impact of the virus on other illnesses. It may depend on the frequency of COVID-19 cases, population size, immunization services, and the number of non-COVID-19 diseases.
At the same time, healthcare facilities should extend efforts in developing educational and communication materials concerning COVID-19 transmission, symptoms, and prevention among healthcare staff and patients. To know more about prevention, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided a module that discusses infection control in healthcare settings.
In times of mobility restrictions, service providers must develop strategies to ensure access to community health facilities and services. It is also important to guarantee the availability of commodities and supplies to limit the exposure of healthcare workers and patients to COVID-19 in any form of delivery points in health services. These include disinfecting and cleaning supplies, hygiene products (e.g., water, soap, alcohol, and hand sanitizer), and personal protective equipment (PPE).
When it comes to medications, healthcare companies should have a steady forecast when providing medications for several months of dispensing (e.g., three to six months dispensing). This applies to patients suffering from chronic diseases to minimize contact and client visits monthly. Clinics must also consider offering telehealth services to support and monitor patients if they cannot make it during in-person visits.
When dealing with COVID-19 patients in a hospital setting, service providers should ensure proper supply, staffing, and establishment of isolation centres among COVID-19 patients whether they have mild-to-moderate symptoms. This way, you can assure everyone that virus carriers have dedicated facilities to recover and isolate.
In this pandemic, it is important to make modifications in service delivery to ensure that non-COVID patients have access to essential health services. It is best to start by identifying the essential medical services that you will continue to offer and the ones that you will temporarily pause. For unavailable services, refer the patients to other clinics that can cater to their health needs.
During in-person visits, screening patients and healthcare workers for COVID-19 symptoms should be required before entering a health facility. These include temperature tests, access to hygiene kits, and regular cleaning of the facility. Otherwise, telehealth platforms make a great alternative for patients who are not comfortable with face-to-face interactions.
When inside the facility, make sure patients maintain a safe distance from other patients for at least two meters. You may also provide a waiting area if the facility has reached the maximum number of persons. This works well for facilities with small spaces, such as clinics and pharmacies.
To prevent the spread of infection, repurpose the clinic space or designate facilities for non-COVID-19 services and COVID-19 treatment.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, it is important to maintain access and availability of essential medical services to prevent losing more lives. In this case, healthcare providers should streamline their efforts in providing healthcare services to those who need them.