The new guidance of the World Health Organization will help countries to keep essential health services operational by taking measures to protect people in the COVID-19 epidemic. Most health systems are facing the challenges of increasing demand for care for people with COVID-19, affected by fear, misinformation and limitations of movement that impede the delivery of health care for all conditions. Countries must find ways to keep people safe and ensure delivery of services such as emergency care for conditions such as heart attacks and injuries; Vaccination to prevent outbreaks; Treatment for infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis; And screening and treatment for nonclinical diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Maintaining essential health services: operational guidance for the COVID-19 reference Recommends practical actions that countries can take to reorganize at national, sub-regional and local levels and safely maintain high-quality, essential health services. It also outlines sample indicators to monitor maintenance of essential health services and describes ideas about stopping and resuming services in the form of COVID-19 transmission waxes and veins.
The guide outlines a set of basic principles and makes some practical recommendations for countries. Contains:
- Ensuring timely access to emergency care services 24 hours per day, 7 days per week
- Adjusting governance and coordination mechanisms to support timely action
- Ensuring infection prevention and control measures to guarantee safe service delivery.
- Prioritizing essential services – identifying what can be delayed and what is not; COVID-19 can be transferred to areas less affected; To cater to the special needs of marginalized populations including indigenous people, sex workers, migrants and refugees.
- Re-appointing health workers from locations with low or zero COVID-19 transmissions or with additional capacity to boost the workforce in hard-hit zones so that essential services can be maintained.
- Maintaining the availability of essential medicines, equipment and supplies through weekly mapping of resources and required distribution lists on important products, such as weekly reporting from hospitals and district stores on important products that may be at risk of scarcity or other problems.
- Removing financial barriers to access and fund public health by suspending payments or user fees at the point of payment for all patients regardless of their health or citizenship status.
- The public disseminates information in local languages to prepare the public for changes in service delivery platforms using reliable information sources and these sources are kept up to date about changes in required service delivery and available resources such as hotlines.
- Transferring delivery of certain routine services to digital platforms (telemedicine) and establishing a mechanism to implement electronic prescriptions (e-prescriptions) between public and private pharmacies and suppliers
The guidance provides specific advice on how to meet certain general health needs. Examples include reducing the amount of people visiting health centers through bulk prescriptions of medicines and nutritional supplements and transporting them home from a drop-off point.
Other approaches include monitoring and outreach of people with current conditions to ensure that they seek care that cannot safely be delayed, such as emergency care for heart attacks, sepsis, or pregnancy complications; Supportive services, such as basic diagnostic imaging, laboratory and blood bank services.
This guidance outlines specific recommendations on how to apply vaccines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to prevent outbreaks of other fatal diseases.
It also sheds light on the ways of protecting those who are particularly sensitive to the direct and indirect consequences of an epidemic. These include interventions to protect older people from infection and reduce the effects of social isolation; Or school-based delivery options, such as nutritional supplementation, and activities to protect children from violence and keep them healthy at home when school is closed. It also provides guidance on how to enhance and strengthen mental health services in the context of epidemics.
This new guidance will help decision makers and managers at national and sub-professional levels to ensure continuity of essential health services in the context of COVID-19.
It is an unprecedented coordinated effort between four divisions, 14 departments, and dozens of program units at WHO headquarters, all in contact with regional counterparts worldwide.