According to a recent editorial in Lancet (1), the recent Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea has brought to light a number of significant deficiencies in the health systems of the region. Local health clinics and hospitals were already understaffed and undertrained, and could not adequately take care of existing problems even before the onset of the epidemic.
The Ebola outbreak soon overwhelmed the capabilities of regional clinics and hospitals. Many health workers contracted Ebola and a number died of the disease. Health facilities soon were not only unable to care for Ebola victims, they could not even provide routine health services.
In December 2014, the World Health Organization sponsored a meeting involving ministers of health of Ebola affected countries, international organizations and development partners. The purpose of the meeting was to establish the grounds for a more resilient health care system, “able to absorb the shock of an emergency like Ebola, and at the same time continue to provide regular health services”.
Their recommendations were:
1. To fill the gaps in workforce capacity by further training of existing personnel and by recruiting numbers of new skilled health workers and administrative personnel.
2. To restore trust in the local health systems
3. Rather than building vertical programs directed at specific diseases, build a more flexible, resilient health system “designed to meet a variety of possible emergencies, grounded in primary health care principles, and capable of responding to routine as well as unexpected challenges that might arise in the region.”
The participants acknowledged that these recommendations will require a major investment in planning and financing. However a solid, more resilient health system would be cost effective in the long run, and not only be much better able to respond to the next Ebola like emergency but also provide an improved level of routine health services.
Ref: Beyond Ebola: a new agenda for resilient health systems. Lancet.com, 385, Jan 10, 2015
Submittet by Roger Boe MD.