Over one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, 90 per cent of the countries are still reporting one or more disruptions to essential health services, said a WHO Health Organization (WHO) Survey.
However, the Pulse Survey says that some progress was noticed. In 2020, countries surveyed reported that, on average, about half of essential health services were disrupted. In the first three months of 2021, that figure had dropped to just over one third of services, the WHO said.
The WHO said in the survey that several countries have stepped up efforts to mitigate disruptions due to Covid pandemic. This includes informing the public about changes to service delivers and providing assistance to seek healthcare. The survey notes that countries recruited additional staff to boost health workforce, redirected patients to other care facilities and switched to alternative methods to delivering care.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it was encouraging to see that countries are beginning to build back their essential health services. However, he said that there was much to do. “The survey highlights the need to intensity efforts and additional steps to close gaps and strengthen services. It will be especially important to monitor the situation in countries that were struggling to provide health services before the Covid pandemic,” he said.
- 94 percent of participating countries and territories reported disruptions in at least one essential health service.
- 34 percent of countries reported disruptions in over half of services (with approximately nine percent of countries reporting disruptions in 75-100 percent of services and 25 percent reporting disruptions in 50-74 percent of countries.
- 35 percent of countries reported disruptions across reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition services. The most frequently disrupted services were family planning and contraception services and management of moderate and severe malnutrition. Over a third of countries also report disruptions to antenatal care and postnatal care
- 26 (25 percent) countries reported disruptions in facility-based births
- 21 (28 percent) reported disruptions to safe abortion and post-abortion care services,
- 24 (39 percent ) reported disruptions to services for intimate partner and sexual violence prevention and response services
- More than one-third of countries reported disruptions to immunization services. Thirty five countries reported disruptions to routine facility-based and outreach immunization services
- Disruptions to communicable disease. The most frequently reported disruption was to TB diagnosis and treatment, with 50 (51 percent) countries reporting disruptions, and six (6 percent) countries reporting disruption levels greater than 50 percent.
- 49 (49 percent) countries reported disruptions to HIV testing services and 43 (46 percent) countries reporting disruptions to HIV prevention services. 23 (25 percent) countries reported disruptions to services to initiate new antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, and 17 percent reported disruptions to continuation of established ARV treatments.
- 43 percent reported disruptions in Hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment services. Between 30-40% of malaria endemic countries reported some level of disruption to malaria diagnostic and treatment services
- Non-communicable disease: Most disrupted service was cancer screening. 49% of 86 countries reported as disrupted. 16 (19%) countries reported as disrupted by more than 50%. 45% of countries reported disruptions across mental, neurological and substance use
- Insufficient staff availability, for example due to deployment of staff to COVID-19 or other causes (66% of 112 countries)
- Cancellation of elective care (47% of 112 countries)
- Changes in treatment policies for care seeking behaviours (35% of 111 countries)
- Insufficient personal protective equipment availability (26% of Ill countries).
- Community fear and mistrust in seeking health care (57% of 112 countries)
- Patients not presenting to outpatient care (57% of 111 countries)
- Perceptions that financial difficulties during the outbreak were affecting attendance (43% of 112 countries)
- Perceptions that travel restrictions were hindering access to care (36% of 112 countries).