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Covid-19 pandemic puts heavy pressure on regular care delivery in the GCC

  • Healthcare providers
  • Policy makers
  • Strategy
  • Portfolio
  • Quality
  • Efficiency

GS Health – a healthcare consulting firm in the GCC – analyzed the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the ‘regular’ care delivery. They found that ~50% of all regular care is cancelled. This leads to ~8 million fewer patient contacts per week and 400,000 care providers that are not able to do their jobs. Moreover, postponing care delivery creates an immense backlog, which leads to increased waiting lists, and poses health threats to patients. GS Health recommends a number of solutions to cope with this challenge.

The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak is enormous and affects all of us. The GCC countries have learned from previous experiences with MERS-CoV: they take far-reaching measures to prevent the disease from quickly spreading and prepare for worst case scenarios. This approach is admirable, though it has a downside: what happens in the meantime with the ‘regular’ patient that requires ‘regular’ care? We can postpone a vacation or an appointment with the hairdresser, but what about care? The longer care is postponed, the higher the chance of permanent health damage. Postponing care can be a silent killer that could potentially affect more lives than the new coronavirus.

An estimated 50% of the regular care in the GCC is on hold as per GS Health’ assessment amongst providers. This is a lot; 8 million patient contacts are cancelled every week, 400.000 doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are not able to provide regular care. Most elective surgeries are postponed, visits to the family physician or dentist are cancelled, many mentally ill or disabled people do not receive adequate support.

The reason to cancel care is evident: to avoid infections and free up capacity for corona patients. If the corona outbreak will be under control within the next few weeks, the postponed care can reasonable be picked up where it had left of. However, what if the corona crisis lasts till summer, or even longer? A backlog of care will build up and waiting lists will increase immensely: if the crisis will last till summer, this backlog of care will reach ~USD 4 B, or ~40 M patients contacts across the GCC. Moreover, a large part of the care (~USD 6 B or ~60 M patient contacts) will ‘evaporate’; it will not be rescheduled. This has an impact on finances of care providers and could possibly mean that certain patients will deteriorate; a troubled spot on the skin could develop into cancer, a sensitive tooth may infect, and mental health patients could develop a set-back when they do not receive the proper care.

To deal with this backlog of care GS Health proposes various solutions: 1) invest in care at home, 2) use the available capacity for regular care wisely and 3) limit care avoidance at vulnerable patient groups.

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