History records will show that in the year 2020, the unimaginable happened. Entire countries shut down, airports fell silent and on a more heartbreaking note, we lost one too many souls. It is, as is often said lately, an unprecedented turn of events.
In light of all this disruption and devastation, it would be remiss of us not to learn anything from this pandemic. The healthcare sector, in particular, has come under sharp scrutiny and has been found wanting in many ways. So, even as we laud nurses and doctors for their bravery, there is much more to be done.
The Coronavirus has unequivocally proven that there is a dire for:
At the onset of the pandemic, ventilators could easily have been made the world currency. Every nation was in a scramble to stock up on them. Certified PPE manufacturers like Mr.Lee from Hisomedical were also working around the clock to supply orders from various countries. While tests and reagents became a rarity in warehouses leaving countries unable to test their citizens.
China has made a name for itself as a hub for medical supplies due to its manufacturing capacity. However, it is becoming evident that it is a great risk to have the world dependent on one hub. There is a need to increase national and regional capacities for the manufacturing of medical supplies.
The Chinese government has put in great effort to help the nation’s industries develop. This is a strategy that most countries should seek to emulate going forward. More so with the World Health Organisation sounding the alarm on drug shortages for other life-threatening conditions.
Picture a situation where one person infected with Covid-19 is not able to access testing due to exorbitant costs. The chances are, they could go on to infect many more people as was the case with Patient 31. Suffice it to say, the Coronavirus has been a stark reminder that health is a societal issue, not an individual one.
For many countries, attempts at implementing a universal healthcare system have been hampered by capitalism and individualistic interests. Currently, at least 33 of the developed countries have different kinds of universal healthcare plans. On the other hand, among developing countries, it is a preserve of a handful of nations.
During this pandemic, we have witnessed governments rising to the occasion and offering care to their citizens. That in itself an indicator that universal healthcare is not an impossible achievement.
Improved Crisis Response Systems
In all fairness, the last pandemic which was the Spanish flu happened more than a century ago. Hardly anyone could have imagined that the world of modern medicine could be brought to its knees by another pandemic. Yet, it has happened.
Unfortunately, when it comes to crises, we tend to learn how to prevent and handle them in retrospect. It is hard to tell what, heaven forbid, the next medical crisis will be. Nonetheless, it is important that the health sector ramps up its crisis response systems.
Some possible solutions to explore could include:
- Increased contingency funding
- More crisis training for staff
- Research into possible crisis scenarios and their solutions
Research and Funding
The current race to find a vaccine can only be compared to the Space Race. Firms looking to cash in by providing a much-awaited solution to the pandemic are sparing no expense. It turns out that when push comes to shove, research funds are not the rarity they usually are.
Undoubtedly, the need for a Coronavirus vaccine is a matter of utmost urgency. Nevertheless, we are still losing millions of patients to cancer and other chronic conditions each year. For instance, it is estimated that in 2019 the United States alone had over 1.7 million cancer diagnoses. An extrapolation of this data would prove that the global estimate is even more jarring.
The only way to avoid future pandemics and address existing illnesses is through more medical research. More funding for studies would go a long way in making that possible. Moreover, given as no one country has a monopoly of talents, it would be ideal for funding pools to be internationally accessible.
Support For Healthcare Workers
Nurses in America recently staged a protest in front of the White House due to poor working conditions. Sadly, theirs is not an isolated case. Healthcare workers from several countries have attested to using trash bags as personal protective equipment due to shortages of supplies. Some have also had to survive on one face mask a day regardless of the many patients they are exposed to.
It is hypocritical to be hailing doctors and nurses as front liners against Covid-19 while offering them no support. At the end of the day, they too have loved ones they wish to return to. Should the fact that they took an oath to protect lives cost them their own?
The solutions and lessons on this are nothing new from what healthcare professionals have beseeched governments to do for decades. Perhaps, what is worth emphasizing now is that the needs of medics can no longer be ignored. Fair pay, psychosocial support, sufficient staffing, and conducive working hours are not too much to ask.
After months of shutdowns and other restrictions, there is an increase in ‘pandemic fatigue’. More people are going on about life as though the Coronavirus is no longer in existence. Healthcare lessons and warnings are also slowly being pushed to the backburner. We owe it to the loved ones we have lost and the great sacrifice of healthcare workers to do better.
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