COVID -19 Pandemic: Challenges to health care system of Pakistan

COVID -19 Pandemic: Challenges to health care system of Pakistan

Publication details

  • Wednesday | 06 May, 2020
  • Hina Aslam, Sofia Akram
  • COVID-19 Policy Review Series
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Background and Introduction

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses which circulate among animals and birds, but infect humans. The COVID-19 is closely related to two other viral infections that include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The SARS and MERS first emerged in world in 2003 and 2012 respectively (Gulland 2020). However, the spectrum of coronavirus disease is broad this time with about 80% cases of mild infection, 14% severe illness, and 6% critical (ERS resource centre 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has posed big challenges to health care system globally. In affected countries, access to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was a key concern at the outset of the pandemic.  Many countries have developed and extensive health care systems. Nevertheless, they are faced with shortage of PPE in this situation of pandemic. The worldwide health care systems can work for months at maximum capacity, but ventilators, wards and medical staff cannot be manufactured urgently or cannot be occupied for longer period of time (Lancet 2020). China spends almost 5.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care system (Fang 2020) and the government provides all the basic health facilities to its masses free of cost. As the COVID-19 outbroke in Wuhan, the provincial government launched training programmes for all the medical staff. They were also provided hand hygiene, PPE and safe waste disposal during the training.  As the situation exacerbated in Wuhan, all the medical resources were distributed   among intensive care units (ICUs) and emergency departments, which were set up at provincial level (Wang 2020). Yet, there were dire shortages at times, that’s why they had to reuse some of the protective wear (Wee 2020). The US despite the world’s biggest economy, has failed to provide PPE to its medical staff, which resulted in increased number of cases. The staff was forced to use trash bags for gowns, scarves for masks and reuse other medical equipment to reduce the risk of coronavirus (Lopez 2020). Also, the health care workers are running out of the lifesaving equipment, including shortage of N95 masks (Ali 2020) as well as other resources South Korea began with slow drip of cases to abrupt dramatic escalation but later on cases declined dramatically. The reason behind is the indiscriminate testing and keeping every suspected carrier in quarantine. Despite having highly regulated and efficient health care system, the Koreans had to face shortages of doctors and nurses to treat sick patients. They were also faced with the shortages of masks and beds in hospitals. They managed this problem by specifying beds for the most needed patients and by creating extra space with the help of bigger companies (Yoon 2020). Most of the developed countries have very strong health care system but the increase number of coronavirus patients has put their health care system under strain. In Italy, number of cases is increasing on daily basis. In Lombardy area of Italy, has reserved 80% care beds for the treatment of coronavirus patients. The sudden increase in cases has caused shortage of medical equipment, including masks, PPE and ventilators for the people suffering from respiratory illness. In this situation, Italy sought medical help from China. Later, China sent specialist doctors and medical equipment, which included 10,000 ventilators, two million face masks and 20,000 protective suits (Wood 2020). The situation in Pakistan is no different, as our health care system is overburdened with increase in COVID-19 patients mainly because of PPEs, lack of testing kits, insufficient funds disbursement and lack of required equipment. . According to a recent report from National institute of health (NIH), there are 57 functional labs having 16414 testing capacity per day, a total of 23,557 beds available in quarantine, 2,942 beds for isolation purpose, and 35 designated COVID-19 tertiary care hospitals[1]. For a country of 220 million population, this is a drop in the ocean. Till date, the total number of confirmed cases are 22,550 with 526 deaths (ibid). [1] http://covid.gov.pk/stats/pakistan