According to him, whenever there is an outbreak of any disease with public health significance, there are a variety of decisions to be made within limited resources, with focus on the number of victims to be treated and the quality and cost of care.
These, he noted, are important decisions to consider within the public health system to ensure the desired impact of medical care and maximize the benefits of the emergency response when a scourge surfaces.
Dr. Andy Ayim, a public health specialist and member of the Faculty of Public Health at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, explained that while the media may be focusing on the scarcity of medical supplies such as ventilators which may create some uneasiness among the public, the public health response to situations such as the COVID-19, is to focus attention on ensuring that every single person in the population affected by the pandemic gets the necessary medical care, bearing in mind the cost and quality of care to be provided.
He was responding to questions from ghanabusinessnews.com on steps to be taken to strengthen the country’s public health system and emergency preparedness, especially after the end of COVID-19.
Dr Ayim noted that in all cases involving global or national scourges such as HIV, cholera or the coronavirus disease, there are already routine and logical processes in responding to diseases and all these processes have been activated in the country.
He explained that where there are limited resources but varied needs to cater for within different segments of the population, there is always the need to juggle different competing propositions.
He noted that, for instance, there may be the decision to purchase one expensive ventilator for use by one or two patients as against channeling these same funds into buying thousands of face masks to protect huge segments of the population from a threatening pandemic.
He therefore explained that news reports, which appear to sensationalize the scarcity of ventilators may not be taking into account other numerous factors to deal with in providing care or choosing a particular intervention over another to respond effectively to a pandemic of global proportions.
Dr Ayim urged the private sector to invest in the health of the population who work for them as part of strategies to keep the population healthy and ready for pandemics such as the COVID 19.
He also called on groups such as the churches to channel resources into preventive health care among the groups they engage with and also play a supportive role in making sure that some basic supplies such as water, soap and sanitizers are readily available to vulnerable groups within their reach during these outbreaks.
Rev. Jesse Essel of the Victorious Faith Centre, near Tema, has endorsed the call for the church to play a supportive role during critical moments in the country.
He noted that churches must start in a small way by reaching out with food items to people within their immediate spheres of influence or locality.
He applauded churches who have already donated cash to the national emergency funds and urged that after the crisis the churches must expand their supportive role by liaising with their local district assemblies to offer help and resources needed in dealing with outbreaks of any kind.
The COVID-19 has forced schools, businesses, industries and religious meetings to shut down. Political, electoral and football programmes and calendars have equally been suspended.
Even more worrying is the suspense over the outcome of the pandemic and implications for the future across the globe.
As at April 5, mid-morning, the website of the World Health Organisation (WHO) puts the global confirmed COVID-19 cases at 1,093,349 cases with 58,620 deaths.
On March 30 this year, the WHO in a news release documented some guidelines to help countries maintain essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the statement, it quoted its Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as saying the “COVID-19 is revealing how fragile many of the world’s health systems and services are, forcing countries to make difficult choices on how to best meet the needs of their people.”
It has become evident that countries such as Ghana has to step up local efforts at this present time and in the post- COVID-19 pandemic era without looking outside for support.
There is the need to plan ahead on how to strengthen both the public health response and revise the entire Ghanaian national emergency preparedness and protocols to combat pandemics, which has the potential of crippling all sectors of national life given how disruptive the coronavirus disease has been on all fronts of human endeavours.
The whole world appears to look on helplessly, with the pandemic on the war path with humankind.
Although, the virus does appear to be implacable, invisible, elusive and defiant to modern science, the good news is that epidemiologists and virologists are on the trail of the disease looking for possible cures to break the power of the pandemic.
There are some guidelines already documented to generally make the world a safe place which countries must look at and begin to implement in this era of potential threats from the environment such as air pollution and sanitation-related diseases.
The WHO sets some proposals in its 76-page 2019 document, titled: “Healthy environments for healthier populations: why do they matter, and what can we do?
According to the document, known avoidable environmental risks to health cause at least 12.6 million deaths every year, and account for about one quarter of the global burden of disease.
The document adds that global environmental challenges are on the rise, including climate change, rapid urbanization and increased resistance to drugs.
It also cites human influences on the environment, with its resulting risks generating diseases and injuries and notes that inadequate sanitation and hygiene result in thousands of deaths.
There is the need, it says, to ensure that entire communities have access to safe toilets and basic handwashing facilities, at home, at school, in health facilities and at work and it adds that there is the need to build the capacity of the health sector to steer the creation of healthier environments and build support at the highest political levels by implementing adequate governance mechanisms and scaled-up communication systems for healthier environments.
The document also urges that there should be adequate measures to prepare for emergencies by putting in place policies and plans for prevention and response and recovery in the event of emergencies in addition to including intersectoral coordination and early warning systems.
By Eunice Menka
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