The impact of COVID-19 on the Nigerian frontline health workers

It’s been over 8 months since WHO declared a global public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus, even in this brief time, the pandemic, and the global public health response has led to an unimaginable change in all of our daily lives. One of the most significant changes has been the prevalent use of hand sanitizers, and face masks, and the practice of social distancing.

In over a century, the world faces a huge health crisis, and with the Covid-19 rapidly spreading, cases and deaths have increased in many countries. Most health systems have been overwhelmed and many more threatened. Except it is contained or eliminated many millions are likely to die.

The pandemic is now in Africa, where the problems have been magnified by a chronic lack of infrastructure, protective equipment, and medicines, shortage of health workforce, lack of capacity for healthcare workers, as well as measures to quarantine and track infected people.

Many leaders have noted that there has been more innovative deployment in the healthcare delivery front, recently than in the previous years. It’s no news that the Nigerian healthcare delivery was overdue for a major disruption, but none imagined (or wished) that the catalyst for this disruption would be a devastating viral pandemic.

The pandemic has, in the course of a few weeks, literally transformed how healthcare is delivered, and the healthcare experience for both patients and providers. It has shifted the point-of-care from the exam room to the living room. ‘Hospital at Home’ has become commonplace as patient admissions are shifted from hospital beds to patients’ bedrooms. Virtual care and video visits are now becoming the main channel of delivery, while in-person visits for regular check-ups and follow-ups have become the exception.

Among several vulnerabilities the pandemic has revealed is also the need to rapidly strengthen the capacity of frontline healthcare workers in infection prevention and control wherever health care is provided. 

The level of stress on providers and staff – especially those who are actively providing care to COVID-19 patients – is unprecedented. This has caused the concern of how to maintain a healthy and viable healthcare workforce, particularly in light of the scarcity of PPE’s, lack of adequate capacity for health workers, and the scarcity of providers in many communities.

It is eminent now more than ever to focus on boosting capacity through technology for health workers, to give them the strength to handle the enormous challenges caused by the pandemic and the underlining Nigeria healthcare stink.