EPC | 14 Feb 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic, with its successive mutations, still represents a huge global challenge. The Coronavirus crisis has exposed several gaps in the health care systems all over the world, including the most advanced industrial nations. In light of the ongoing race to produce vaccines that meet the global need to stop the spread of the virus and limit its threat, the following questions are raised about the health systems and infrastructure: How did the Covid-19 crisis affect reviewing current health care systems in the world? Can we separate between pandemics and the politicization of crises as we have seen during the Covid-19 crisis? Which health care systems in the world have proved successful during Covid-19 crisis? Why have world countries failed in predicting the Covid-19 crisis? Has the World Health Organization been efficient in coordinating global efforts against the spread of Covid-19 pandemic?
The 7th Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate (ADSD) was held between 9-11 November 2020 with the participation of a number of distinguished experts and researchers at the global level and tried to provide answers to these questions. The following are key conclusions provided by participating experts on this issue.
The global health care systems were full of gaps that were not evident before. We have realized the limitation of the capability of our health system. The pandemic has forced us somehow to use technologies that were not in use before. Although the spread of a pandemic was likely, preparations, however, were not suitable. COVID-19 has forced many hospitals to cancel services for many other diseases which impacted other people who require health care, as well as, the health economy itself.
COVID-19 has proved that we have not done a good job in translating science into policy. If we have done a good job in communicating information to people, for instance, we could have faced the fall out of misinformation. We should benefit from this experience and try to convince policy makers of the importance to translate science into future plans and policies. There is a need for new mechanisms and policies to build up health capabilities. Hospitals must have procedures and resources to ensure the provision of minimum health care services. There is also a need for coordination networks to enable hospitals to provide support for their counterparts in other hard-hit areas. The health care system should be built on a methodology based on data to understand people’s needs and adapt to them.
It is noteworthy that countries that carried out large numbers of tests, followed up cases and applied quarantine were able to manage the crisis with considerable success. The fundamental factor is to understand the urgent need to keep the health care systems running under pressure. There is no doubt that facing the pandemic requires more collective efforts to focus on health care systems and invest in them as a matter of national security.
Although WHO was not efficient in leading efforts of combating the COVID-19, however, the world must be able to share information and efforts. WHO can play a big role here because spreading effective policies and measures is part of its role which it must play. WHO can still adopt a better methodology to deal with the pandemic, gather data and information and share them on a large scale to benefit from the lessons learnt.
Mahshid Abir Senior Physician Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation.
The world has seen health crises in the past. The impact of these crises, however, was not like the COVID-19 impact. The health care systems in the world were not designed to deal with the challenge imposed by this pandemic. While focus has been on short-term scenarios, such as preparing medical and quarantine facilities, there has been a heavy impact on allocated resources for other health problems. It was evident that the impact of the pandemic is related to life style, while chronic diseases of the elderly and the more vulnerable people have exacerbated the outcomes of this pandemic.
One of key impact of the pandemic that must be dealt with is the fatigue and pressure on the infrastructure of the health care systems, taking into consideration that there will be a long-term impact. This requires a review of the status quo and adopt policies that make us more prepared. The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in our health care systems. There is an urgent need to fill these gaps. Politicizing the pandemic has made things worse. There was a clear political manipulation of this pandemic with heavy impact on people. Politicization of such issues exacerbate things and does not help in solving them.
One of the learnt lessons in this pandemic is the need to enhance resilience of the health care systems. There is an urgent need for strong data systems about society that enable institutions to make accurate assessments and deal with the situation. There is also a need for comprehensive development and a scientific methodology in dealing with health crises. There is also a need for comprehensive policies to fill gaps in the health care systems exposed by the pandemic. There is also a need for investments in the programs and plans for crises and disaster management. Policy should be in the proper perspective to provide help in overcoming crises.
It is important to look into reasons that the health care systems in some countries have performed better than others. In other words, there are lessons that must be learnt here. Where did we fail? What should be done? For instance, some countries have performed well in the number of tests which means that there is something to be learnt from some experiences.
I think the World Health Organization (WHO) should play a more effective role in spreading measures that proved effective in facing the pandemic and affirm, generalize and apply best practices. There is also a need for good infrastructure to prove that these measures are effective. Although the production and distribution of an effective vaccine all over the world is the way out of this crisis, this, however, needs data comprehensible by ordinary people to take the vaccine.
Shoba Suri, Senior Fellow with Observer Research Foundation’s Health Initiative in New Delhi.