This is an original article by Dora Hoong and Racia Yoong from Global Initiatives.
The ongoing pandemic has taken a massive toll on economies worldwide, mandating a change in the way we live our lives. But the greatest toll that the pandemic has taken is probably on our health care.
It has revealed the glaring incompetencies of healthcare systems worldwide, even that of developed nations.
Singapore, known for its advanced health care, has not been spared in this pandemic and is greatly impacted as the COVID-19 cases witness a rise in this country.
The pandemic has left countries scrambling for medical supplies and protective equipment, forcing healthcare workers to reuse protective equipment, while others battle the virus unprotected.
It is evident that healthcare systems around the world are unprepared for a global health emergency, as aptly warned by Bill Gates. This global pandemic demonstrated that we have all failed to prioritise our resources to prepare us for ‘war’.
This war is the novel coronavirus.
Our incredible lack of a sense of urgency when it comes to biological threats have led to our downfall, with thousands of medical workers infected across the globe. It is reasonable to say that the lack of protection is partly to blame.
The shortage of medical supplies and protective equipment stem from unpreparedness as well as the lack of international cooperation.
A lot of power… But poor leadership
There needs to be a shift in priorities when we allocate national budgets to advance health care.
There is much talk about creating sustainable societies, but in order to really do so, we have to be able to battle such unprecedented emergencies without having to leave our healthcare workers unprotected.
Global cooperation will ensure that countries vulnerable to the global health threat are not left to fend for themselves.
With the onset of the pandemic, medical protectionism has been on the rise with nations placing restrictions on the export of medical supplies. Governments have to realise that when dealing with such global issues, we are only as strong as our weakest link and the only way to recover from this is through concerted efforts between nations.
This is not to say that governments should neglect their own people for the sake of helping other nations; but there needs to be greater efforts working towards a long-term solution through partnership between nations, a crucial Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).
Caring for our caregivers
Healthcare workers around the world are being ostracised publicly, as work takes a toll on their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. Despite being appraised for their work on the frontline, many of our healthcare workers are shunned in certain countries and even subject to violence.
Our healthcare warriors are faced with huge levels of stress and anxiety going to and leaving work, and not to mention, having to deal with the potential risk of falling sick and affecting their families as well.
“As much as possible, I try not to wear my uniform outside of the hospital because I feel like the public is always looking at us,” said Elaine, a 24-year-old nurse working at one of Singapore’s public hospitals.
Elaine also added that it is dampening to receive criticism from the public when they are simply doing their best for the society, and that, “We are also scared of the virus, but we have no choice. We have to fight it.”
AP Photo by Manu Fernandez
Amid the gloomy situation, local businesses in Singapore joined a new effort to support our frontline heroes in the fight against the virus.
Some hospitals have increased efforts in supporting the mental health of their frontline medical staff as well — these heartwarming initiatives range from free lunches, special discounts, childcare and eldercare arrangements.
All over the world, these practices are increasingly adopted in hospitals. These are examples that bring out the best in humanity.
Especially in these unprecedented times, we need to remember that “battling the coronavirus is like running a marathon; there is always an end point — but we need to let them (our healthcare workers) know that the support they need is available.”
As members of the community, even a small act of kindness or appreciation for our healthcare heroes will go a long way in boosting morale.
Turning to digital health to rewrite our future
A new digital age has emerged, providing the public with reliable medical advice from professionals while minimising contact and thus the risk of spreading infections.
Digital appointments have become the norm in several countries, with countless mobile applications that support this feature.
Already in Germany, robots are being used to care for patients and carry out remote consultations amidst the outbreak, preventing the spread of the virus. While it may sound bizarre, digital health is on the rise and it has the potential to rewrite the future of healthcare.
There is a growing case for remote care during these uncertain times and to tackle future pandemics; in fact, once this global health emergency is past, healthcare is likely to experience a steady paradigm shift to more virtual consultation visits.
The virus has created a new start for digital health infrastructure development. However, the primary challenge now is to modernise, upgrade, update and streamline our digital infrastructure at various stages of the public health response within reasonable limits. This will require different financial models to evolve and alleviate the financial brunt during the development phase of digital health.
A new society is on the rise
Curbing the spread of the virus will not mean the end of the battle, for there is much more to be done to prevent a repeat of this episode.
AP by Christopher Rugaber, Paul Wiseman and Kelli Kennedy
A paradigm shift in our current healthcare and political systems have the potential to dramatically prevent the rise of future pandemics.
The unprecedented health crisis has a multifaceted impact on people’s lives around the world. When economies rebuild after COVID-19, we need to choose a better path — sustainable societies that are inherently inclusive and resilient.
The pandemic has underscored the complexity and interconnectedness of our world. Governments need to work together with businesses, investors and other stakeholders to tackle the impacts of the virus on our public health and society.