Although health care workers have been shown incredible support since the outbreak of the coronavirus strain in March last year, the attacks on them and the impact on the health care system of every country in the world continue. The unprecedented global health scare highlights the unreadiness of the health sector and the lack of understanding from the public.
While we’re only beginning to see how the pandemic will impact our lives in the distant future, the long-term effect on health care will break down systems, magnify lapses, and shake up the institutions.
Fear of Going to Clinics and Facilities
A lot of people are self-diagnosing and self-medicating with over-the-counter drugs because they fear going to clinics and hospitals. Even during emergencies, some think twice before driving to the hospital or calling an ambulance. The thinking is that there’s a better chance of them contracting the virus when they go to these places.
Such fears are understandable, of course. Health care workers are the ones at the forefront of this battle. They are constantly exposed to possible COVID-19 cases. But the problem is that self-diagnosing comes with multiple risks, which can become detrimental to your health in the long run.
This leads to the next phenomenon coming out of the pandemic. Established telemed companies have been reporting an increase in consultations and appointments. Patients were lukewarm about the idea of telemedicine before. Consulting with a doctor over the phone or video conference is not the same as talking with them face-to-face.
However, as fears mount because of the pandemic, people began gravitating toward teleconsultation. Thanks to technology, some apps screen the patients and assist them when they have to seek face-to-face consultations in a physical clinic or hospital. The problem, of course, with telemedicine is the health insurance coverage. Insurance companies have to work double-time to draft new policies and implement them according to these new practices.
Aside from halting economic progress, the pandemic also disrupted essential hospital services and forced the reassignment of staff. Hospitals and health care workers are now neck-deep in their COVID-19 response. What this does for the health care system is unimaginable as public screening programs for breast and cervical cancer, for example, have been postponed.
More than 50% of the countries said their health facilities had to reassign workers to COVID wards. This left essential programs for non-communicable diseases understaffed. Another reason is the shortage of medicines, diagnostics, and technologies. Non-communicable diseases kill 41 million people each year. That’s equivalent to 71% of global deaths annually. It is the last thing that should take a backseat because of the pandemic.
Misconceptions About Symptoms
The symptoms of COVID-19 run similar to the common flu. This is causing the misdiagnosis of symptoms. Others immediately want to get tested when they get a fever. Others are rejecting well-established COVID-19 symptoms, believing instead that they only have the common flu. Even health experts are still continuously learning and relearning about when best to detect the virus. Right now, it is testing three days after a possible infection to avoid a false-negative result.
Mental Health of Medical Professionals
Experts have been saying again and again that the biggest and most devastating impact of COVID-19 has yet to happen. Health care workers are on the verge of depression. Many have been diagnosed to be clinically depressed. A number of them have committed suicide following multiple deaths of patients under their care. It is still not clear how big the numbers are, but experts have been predicting this to be a threat to the health care industry of the future.
The public and private sectors need to work together to address these mental health issues. Many governments have started their own suicide hotlines for health care workers in COVID-19 hospitals and wards. But it’s not just the health care workers that need such help. Their families need the support, too, as well as previous COVID-19 victims and their families.
The fight to survive the pandemic is not localized to one’s physical health. Just because the health workers are physically fine doesn’t mean they’re not suffering emotionally, psychologically, and mentally. They need as much help and support as they can get.
Many times, over the past year, it feels like the pandemic will never end. Governments are now starting their vaccination programs. Millions of people have already been inoculated with the vaccine. While the worst is far from over because of new strains of the coronavirus, things seem to be looking up so that society can finally address the long-term impacts of the pandemic.