The governments and hospitals across the world are in a crisis with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. With all the healthcare systems trying to handle the situation, one important group of patients to be taken care of are those who do not have the coronavirus disease but still need access to healthcare to function in everyday life.
Timothy Hoff is a professor of Management, Healthcare Systems, and Health Policy at Northeastern University. He says that caring for those patients is crucial. Otherwise, many patients could be left with worsening health conditions or developing chronic diseases that could have been prevented or managed better with regular checkups. It is to be noted that healthcare systems should have focused on strengthening primary care over the past decade. However, they have prioritised specialty care, which focuses on treating patients after they get sick, as opposed to preventing diseases. In public health, the nature of primary care medicine makes it one of the first lines of defense. That’s why the scarcity of primary care physicians plays an important secondary role in contributing to the difficulty of international healthcare systems to manage the current global health crisis.
According to Hoff, hospital systems, particularly in the U.S., have grown larger and more concentrated near urban centers over the past 20 years. As a result of which there aren’t enough practices and community hospitals run by primary care physicians. Now, large hospitals and their emergency departments are being overrun with people with COVID-19 and those who think they have it. If the disease spreads among the healthcare workers of those hospitals, there won’t be a lot of other options for patients to find care. Hospitals in the U.S are overwhelmed as they scramble to fight COVID-19. The same is true in countries with state-run healthcare systems that had historically put primary care at the center.
“The stimulus bill passed in the U.S. will provide 130 billion dollars for funding to hospitals and help the healthcare system deal with the pandemic while maintaining other important services for patients in need”, says Hoff.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman