The emergence of the COVID-19 disease has undoubtedly limited the amount of attention given to other ailments as Out-Patient Department visits to most facilities have drastically reduced.
Some major health facilities in the Ashanti Region say they have identified a trend where people with other medical conditions do not turn up at the hospital on time except when their conditions get worse.
According to the World Health Organization, W.H.O, the prevention and treatment services for non-communicable diseases have been severely disrupted since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
A survey, which was completed by 155 countries during a 3-week period in May, confirmed that the impact is global, but that low-income countries are most affected
This situation is of significant concern because people living with non-communicable diseases are at higher risk of severe COVID-19-related illness and death.
At the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital for instance, the management says due to the nature of COVID-19, some health workers have been assigned to the treatment and management of the condition, a situation that has affected the number of health workers caring for people with other medical conditions.
“We had a situation that because of COVID, we have had to do some various rearrangements to be able to isolate those patients. The impact has been that huge that, we have had to assign some specific staff to pull them from various areas of operation from the hospital to specifically deal with COVID. It puts quite some strain on the system in terms of caring for other ailments,” the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Oheneba Owusu Danso indicated.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, health experts have warned that equal attention must be given to the treatment of other ailments else serious complications or death numbers involving other diseases may go up.
Checks at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and the Suntreso Government Hospital in Kumasi show that attendance has reduced drastically. Managers believe the fear of contracting COVID is partly to blame for this.
“We realized that patients who normally would have come here on a very regular basis, have reduced the rate at which they have been coming here. Those with chronic ailments like diabetes, hypertension, asthma and many others, who may be having to come here on a regular basis have not been coming as they used to. In fact, upon that realization, we decided that we needed to meet our clients in one way or the other. That is why for Komfo Anokye, we immediately institutionalized what we call urgent and essential care services. Because they did not really want to engage in the hospital, we set up clinics and telephone numbers were dedicated to all the clinics that we have here,” Dr. Oheneba Owusu Danso stated.
Indeed, some residents of Kumasi corroborated this assertion.
“As it stands now, I will prefer going to a counter and medical seller to buy medicine than to go to the hospital because the restrictions are very high. The government needs to educate the public so we understand COVID-19 very well so that when you are going to the hospital, you will feel comfortable and okay,” a resident, Michael Dwomoh, stated.
“If proper measures are put in place, I can go to the hospital but at this moment, I will not go to the hospital. I will go to the drug store and purchase drugs anytime I am unwell,” another resident, Kwame Acheampong added.
The Medical Superintendent of the Suntreso Government Hospital, Dr. Thomas Agyarko-Poku says the trend is worrying.
According to him, recent data at their facility shows that many sick people are deliberately refusing to visit hospitals until their conditions worsen.
“Now people are at home, it takes a long time before they come and therefore they come with complicated cases. Ordinarily, they will come even with a headache. Now they will stay at home because of COVID and then come when it is more complicated. We need to sustain our healthcare services. We must take care of patients. It is not only COVID that we are dealing with. We have non-communicable diseases and communicable diseases, and as a result, patients must come here.”
According to the two managers, due to the cost of fighting COVID-19 and the reduced hospital visits, their operational costs have escalated. They have therefore called on individuals, corporate bodies and various organizations to support them with resources to complement the government’s efforts.
Dr. Agyarko-Poku also wants the government to clearly define who exactly fits the description of a frontline health worker in the COVID-19 fight to qualify for the government’s incentives.
“If we say frontline health worker, we are not talking about doctors and nurses alone. The cleaners here at the hospital are also frontline health workers, the OPD, the records and people from other areas. They sit there ask them for information before they move on. The X-Ray department, if you go now to the maternity, of course those who are pregnant, they have to be examined. They can’t be treated like any other person who can call and say this. If the child is dead in the abdomen, the woman wouldn’t know. We must tell you that this is what is happening. For now, it is not well-defined.”