Our health workers are at the front-line risking their lives daily to combat the coronavirus – a threat we are yet to fully understand. Yet these medical personnel are under-protected and often over-stressed, limiting their ability to better manage the pandemic.
A typical low-income country has 0.2 physicians and 1 nurse per 1000 patients. This is very low compared to an average high-income country with an estimated 3 physicians and 8.8 nurses per 1000 patients. Considering how scarce and under-protected health workers are in low-income countries (LICs), governments and international health bodies have to ensure that our scant health workers are safe while fighting the pandemic. During the Ebola outbreak between years 2014 and 2016, at least 120 health workers lost their lives in West Africa, how much more will the death toll for health workers be for COVID-19?
Particularly, the scarcity of basic PPE (personal protective equipment) and BIP (basic infection prevention) kits is a major problem for health workers in LICs. According to the WHO, an estimated 85 million masks and 76 million gloves will be needed to manage the spread of the novel coronavirus disease in the next few months, yet only about 500,000 PPEs have been dispatched by the organization. In spite of government's appeal to top-tier manufacturers to increase batch production, the total supply of PPE is hardly comparable to demand in developed countries that have the resources at their disposal. How much more for LICs?
In lieu of these, what then can be done?
There is a need for LIC governments to make better provision for healthcare centres, particularly PPEs, BIPs, emergency testing and isolation centres, etc. This will not only improve our health institutions now, but also prepare them for future outbreaks.
In addition, governments, healthcare bodies and private hospital owners need to emphasize in-service training and supervision for all medical personnel. These measures will go a long way in equipping our "front-line defenders" with relevant skills and reduce their burden.
As cases increase, governments may need to integrate the triage system into our healthcare practice. The triage system helps to prioritize patient’s admission and medical attention by the measure of how life-threatening their case is.
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Article Credit: Michael Adesanya