The rising cases of COVID-19 globally has made many countries drop the ball in the provision of essential health services.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said this and the United Nations (UN) further confirmed the statement saying that the neglect of such services could lead to a big health problem for countries after overcoming COVID-19.
The WHO Chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus said countries should not neglect the provision of essential health services due to the strain of Covid-19 on the health sector.
He advised governments to find a balance in handling both services as the neglect of essential services might have an adverse effect on immunisation, disease management, child delivery among others.
He said the rapidly increasing demand on health facilities and health workers threatens to leave some health systems overstretched and unable to operate effectively.
“Even though we’re in the midst of a crisis, essential health services must continue. Babies are still being born, vaccines must still be delivered, and people still need life-saving treatment for a range of other diseases.”
Health facilities across the world have been under the burden of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and this is beginning to overwhelm the health sector.
Although Nigeria has less than 150 cases, some health facilities are already withdrawing health services to the public.
One of the oldest hospitals in the country, the University College Hospital (UCH), has stopped provision of essential medical services to the public.
Although the provision of essential services was not necessarily the mandate of the health institution, it has been filling the gaps for most people in the community due to the weak health care system in the country.
There is a fear that other institutions in the country might follow suit as cases of Covid-19 increase.
To reduce the impact that the management of COVID-19 might have on a country, WHO has published a detailed, practical manual on how to set up and manage treatment centres for COVID-19.
The guidelines will help countries balance the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, while maintaining essential health services.
This includes a set of targeted, immediate actions to reorganise and maintain access to high-quality essential health services, including routine vaccination; care during pregnancy and childbirth; treatment for infectious and noncommunicable diseases and mental health conditions; blood services, and more.
It includes ensuring an adequate health workforce to deal with the many health needs other than COVID-19.
Ghebreyesus said the manual is a life-saving instruction manual to deal with the surge of cases that some countries are facing right now.
“These facilities will also have longer-term benefits for health systems once the current crisis is over.”
In addition to having facilities for patients, WHO said it vital that countries have sufficient supplies of diagnostics, protective equipment and other medical supplies.
Ghebreyesus said ensuring free movement of essential health products is vital for saving lives and curbing the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
He said specific attention should be given to low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
WHO said it is working with several partners “to massively increase access to life-saving products, including diagnostics, medical oxygen, ventilators and others.”