What does it mean for fragile primary health care systems and workforce?
We believe that everyone has the right to access quality healthcare to enable them to live full and healthy lives. Our contribution towards universal healthcare for all is to support and strengthen primary health care systems and healthworkers in resource-poor settings.
The implications of COVID-19 on these primary healthcare systems – already weak as a result of under-investment over many years – and frontline health workers within this system, are enormous. This global pandemic poses a new and serious challenge to all our efforts to achieve quality healthcare coverage for all.
As a result of the fast-growing impact of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, diabetes and cancers on families, communities, and health systems in low- and middle-income settings, PCI’s particular focus over the past five years has been on building capacity in primary healthcare systems to manage chronic diseases, or Non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The risk of dying prematurely from an NCD in a low-or middle-income setting is already almost double that of high-income countries. We know that COVID-19 appears to increase the risk of becoming severely ill for older people and for those with underlying health conditions. And so, people living with NCDs are at significant risk of severe illness or death during this pandemic. They are facing increased risk from coronavirus itself and disruption to care for existing chronic conditions.
We have been receiving requests for support from clinicians we have worked with over the years who are fearing the onset on COVID-19 in their community, in their health centre:
“How do we prepare?” “How do we respond?” “What advice can I give to my patients with long-term chronic conditions?”
Most of these clinicians are working in settings that are particularly ill-equipped to respond to a disease that ideally requires physical isolation and frequent hand washing. Refugee camps in Sub Saharan Africa, slum settings in India, conflict-affected communities in Libya…
Rapidly mobilising to respond to these requests – we have launched brand new COVID-19 e-learning content hosted within our new PCI Academy. We are now offering this content beyond our current partners – for free – to all primary care doctors and nurses working in resource-poor settings.
As well as the enormous, and immediate, risk of a pandemic sweeping through resource-poor settings who cannot afford the luxuries of isolation, or even hand-washing, it is equally true that when we emerge from this unprecedented period, we will also undoubtedly find that the health of people living with NCDs – having lost access to their medication and routine healthcare – will have deteriorated significantly. We need to be ready to work alongside partners step up our response in support of depleted health systems with a laser sharp focus on these vulnerable groups.
Primary care in the community remains the best way to achieve healthcare for all. It is clear that now, more than ever, we need to work in partnership to strengthen primary care health systems. To support healthcare workers – through our peer to peer model – to build the knowledge and skills, needed to do their job.
We stand in solidarity with all those working to ensure healthcare for all.
“It will not be easy, but it is my deepest hope that PCI and other organisations committed to global health justice find the resilience and resources to step up, play our part, and emerge more relevant than ever in this inter-connected world where ‘Health for All’ has taken on new meaning.”