NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 07 (IPS) – If countries saw universal health coverage (UHC) as a central policy in their health systems, COVID-19 has surely demonstrated the need for its urgent and widespread deployment. The pandemic has disrupted global systems in ways that no scientist or sophisticated global intelligence could have predicted.
Having been asked to join the Executive Board of the World Health Organization to represent Africa in the midst of this global crisis, I am confident that despite its record, this pandemic has “blessings” on its back. COVID-19 exposed the global crisis of weak health systems that previously lay under the rug and forced countries’ global attention to strengthening systems to achieve UHC. Kenya, for example, has never suffered from a major epidemic, having escaped SARS, swine flu and even the deadly Ebola virus that ravaged neighboring countries. This is therefore a first and has indeed tested its preparation for epidemics.
Fortunately for Kenya, the Covid-19 outbreak emerged amid the deployment of the President’s Big 4 Agenda, which prioritized UHC as a key pillar. The pilot implementation of UHC in four counties in Kenya has demonstrated better impact on health outcomes and greater accessibility while building a resilient and sustainable health system that can respond to unforeseen shocks. However, the success of UHC in Kenya will require more than goodwill at the executive or national level; since health is a decentralized function, each of the 47 counties must put in place systems and resources to ensure its success.
County leaders should prioritize providing a better health system to citizens. This will only be possible with a consistent and deliberate approach to UHC between central government and counties to achieve the desired results in a short period of time. National and departmental budgets must be aligned and allocated appropriately towards this goal.
First, sufficient resources must be channeled towards better health care infrastructure, such as more hospitals and better facilities. However, investments in infrastructure must be made simultaneously with those in human capital. State-of-the-art equipment and beautiful hospitals without competent and well-trained staff to manage the equipment and the patients, equates to waste.
As such, governments and partners should make huge investments in medical and health-related sciences to train well-trained health professionals. The country must improve the current ratio of health personnel to population in order to provide quality health care to every citizen. Learning and continuous training of health personnel should be emphasized to perfect their skills in the latest technologies and prepare them to face emerging diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently adopted isolation and home care as one of the strategies for managing Covid-19 cases. For a continent whose populations largely reside in rural areas, this shift in strategy has underscored the importance of competent, capable and motivated community health volunteers. Community health volunteers have become essential tripods on the health care stand during this pandemic. While most CHWs do not necessarily have a college education in health-related fields, their experience and informal training have gone a long way in alleviating Covid-19 issues in communities.
Kenya, for example, has trained and referred 60,000 CHWs to take care of patients who may have symptoms of Covid-19. Guided by a carefully thought-out community health policy (2020-2030) and guidelines on training community health workers on COVID 19, trained CHWs make up about 70 percent of all CHWs in the country. The training and corresponding results of CHWs during this pandemic have demonstrated that CHWs are a key component of the success of UHC. In addition to improving the functioning of UHC, the need for more and better trained CHWs will also be a credible means of job creation, especially at a time when the economy has been hit hard and many people with diverse skills are unemployed.
Covid-19 has been a perfect crucible for testing the efficiency and effectiveness of technology in the management of healthcare. Due to the unpredictability of the epidemic and leading to full and partial lockdowns, CSAs in Kenya received relevant information on Covid-19 via SMS, proving once again that the technology is indeed the present and the present. future of health care management.
In addition to achieving healthier nations, universal health coverage will also be a great opportunity for multilateralism. If Kenya, its neighbors and the entire region were to invest in more hospitals and better quality health care, medical tourism would increase dramatically. The increase in the number of patients will in turn increase incomes and ultimately lead to lower health care costs, even to the benefit of local citizens. This has been the model of countries like India, whose cost of health care has become relatively affordable due to the large number of citizens of the world who seek medical care in their country. For India and other medical destinations, technology has also played a central role in healthcare as it benefits from advanced medical technology for faster and more accurate diagnosis and management.
Advanced medical technologies such as telemedicine and adherence to international quality standards will further guarantee health tourists excellent health services, thus boosting investor confidence and further opening up the region for investment and strength. economic.
The Covid-19 pandemic must be a turning point for countries that have not prioritized universal health coverage. Healthy citizenship is a guarantee of economic growth for any nation. The success of UHC, however, will largely depend on political goodwill, political priorities and a well-trained and well-equipped military of health workers. There is no better time to join UHC than today. The Chinese proverb about planting trees also applies to CSU: the best time to start was 20 years ago, the next best time is now.
Dr Patrick Amoth is Ag. Director General of the Kenya Ministry of Health and is also Vice Chairman of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization.
© Inter Press Service (2020) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service