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Medical emergencies have been common for as long as humans have existed. These cases can be fatal if not handled early enough, and the main issue in such cases has always been how to tackle them. Governments and healthcare facilities have since set up response units to handle any medical emergency.
However, the emergence of COVID-19 has posed a more significant challenge in the healthcare industry as more resources have been channeled into curbing the virus. Somehow, this has affected the emergency responses in some areas that don’t have enough medical facilities and infrastructure to handle the influx of patients.
Because of the general nature of medical emergencies, tackling them remains a priority. The health facilities have been forced to find a way to tackle them amidst the pandemic. Below is a discussion on the nature of medical emergencies during the pandemic and how prepared stakeholders are to tackle them.
Nature Of Medical Emergencies During The Pandemic
The height of the pandemic was characterized by flooded hospitals, which saw so many people visiting hospitals to get medical care to protect them against the virus, while others, to get diagnosed if they had contracted the virus. This was unlike anything in the pre-pandemic period. Obviously, most countries in the world were unprepared to tackle a pandemic of that magnitude, and even those who were prepared fell short at some point due to the fast spreading of the virus.
National and local governments have placed restrictions, such as a ban on public gatherings and lockdown to help curb the rapid spread of the fire. These measures have affected the provision of many services, and even the economy, in many countries.
Also, fewer people are seeking medical emergency services. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Coronavirus phobia – Many people fear contracting the virus, thus, fewer people are willing to go to hospitals as they fear exposing themselves to the virus. Instead, they choose other alternatives, such as in-house treatments. There are protocols, like social distancing, to keep people safe from the virus, which means health facilities aren’t as accessible as before.
- Lack of facilities – Most developed countries have the facilities to take in COVID-19 patients and those seeking other medical services. However, there’s an inadequate number of facilities and medics to care for the patients in developing countries and those with high numbers of infections.
- Ban on movements and traveling has led to fewer emergency cases because there are fewer accidents and injuries. This, generally, reduces the need for emergency responses compared to when people could move freely.
- The social and economic burden of the pandemic on people discourages many of them from seeking medical emergency services as they can’t afford them. Even in cases wherein there are insurance covers, it’s still a burden to pay the premium after the economic implications of the pandemic.
One important thing to note is that while the need to tackle other medical emergencies may have significantly dropped during the pandemic, the need to tackle the COVID-19 emergency rises as more and more people get infected. Moreover, other cases, such as heart attacks, could happen even with people staying indoors. These cases need to be attended to by healthcare providers. Fortunately, there are different measures set to curb these types of emergencies.
Tackling Of Medical Emergencies
During the pandemic, healthcare facilities have different ways tackling medical emergencies. These include:
- Telehealth Services
Telehealth services deliver health services through telecommunication services, such as mobile phones, computers, and email. Telehealth could include virtual appointments, which help prevent in-person consultation, ensuring that social distancing protocols are observed. This has made telehealth services soar during the pandemic, and it has helped in the provision of emergency services.
During emergencies, telehealth can help with screening patients and achieving the same efficiency level as in person-screenings. This has made it possible for the medics to attend to many patients, and even those in rural areas.
Virtual appointments also allow doctors to plan for the rooms. Earlier planning is essential, especially in cases where there are COVID-19 patients who have to be separated from the other patients.
Doctors also utilize telehealth by communicating with other doctors; hence, primary caregivers can seek consultations from specialists concerning a patient’s condition.
- 24-Hour Care
There’s no specific time when an emergency can occur, especially during this pandemic. To help tackle emergencies, medical facilities offer round-the-clock care. These facilities offer different types of medical services, which include COVID and non-COVID emergencies.
Offering 24-hour emergency care ensures that people get enough medical services whenever they need them amidst the pandemic. It also ensures that the high number of patients seeking the services are attended to in time, achieving a flawless provision of services.
- Use Of AI To Predict Cases
Some emergency cases have shown patterns where sepsis can occur due to some circumstances. These occurrences are what causes the need for medical emergency services. However, suppose the pattern can be predicted correctly. In that case, it can be prevented earlier enough, alleviating the need for such services and helping healthcare providers tackle non-COVID emergencies and focus on COVID emergencies.
It’s challenging for a doctor or patient to predict a sepsis case before it happens, and this can be fatal if not attended to earlier. However, having access to patients’ digital health records, as well as using AI and data analytics have helped so much in fighting the issue during the pandemic. With enough data, the AI will predict patterns and alert doctors to handle the situation.
- Seclusion Of COVID And Non-COVID Cases
Having separate sections for COVID and non-COVID-19 cases helps prevent the spread of the virus. This helps ensure patients remain safe while receiving medications. It also helps doctors plan on how to handle cases depending on their respective specialties.
In some regions, different health facilities are fully dedicated for COVID-19 cases, and this helps in terms of resource allocation and distributions. For instance, it’s made it easy to send equipment, such as ventilators, to the COVID-19 facilities as the facilities are clearly known and are separate from other facilities. Such moves ensure a fast response to medical emergencies.
- Rollout Of COVID-19 Vaccines
As the pandemic’s magnitude increased, the need to find ways to prevent more infections was required. A lot of time and resources were dedicated into developing COVID-19 vaccines to help individuals and communities build a stronger immunity against the virus.
Several vaccines have been developed, and countries have been offering support to vaccinate the general population. The mass vaccination exercise has helped reduce the number of infections and deaths resulting from COVID-19, and has also relieved the healthcare industry of the burden of dealing with a lot of emergency cases.
Challenges Facing Medical Emergencies During The Pandemic
While so many measures are used to ensure patients continue to receive medical emergency services during the pandemic, there are some challenges. These challenges make it difficult to provide such services efficiently.
Here are some of the said obstacles:
- High Workload
The pandemic is characterized by a high number of patients visiting emergency rooms. The number of cases and infections recorded in different countries is uncharacteristically high. Most countries and health facilities don’t have enough labor force to attend to all the emergency cases, especially COVID cases.
The available doctors and nurses have no choice but face high workloads, which is difficult for them to handle. As a result, the provision of emergency medical services is significantly slowed down during the pandemic.
- Shift In Service Priority
While the need to curb COVID-19 can never be downplayed, this means that more resources and focus are turned toward fighting the virus. In some cases, this comes at the expense of other non-COVID emergencies.
The focus on fighting COVID-19 means that people looking for the other emergency services aren’t afforded the same priority as before. As the allocation of resources has shifted more to fighting the virus, there’s a risk of leaving the other medical emergencies with inadequate resources, which poses a challenge in tackling them.
- Unwillingness To Adhere To Health Protocols
Several measures have been set to ensure that the spread of the virus is curbed. Such measures include social distancing, hand sanitization, and wearing facemasks. While these measures are meant to protect the people, many still fail to adhere to such health protocols.
Also, vaccines have been developed to help in preventing infection, and some countries have been vaccinating residents for free. However, some people still remain unvaccinated due to factors such as misinformation about the vaccine. Failing to get vaccinated means that the risk of getting infected is still high, and this poses a significant challenge in tackling medical emergencies.
Tackling medical emergencies during the pandemic has remained a priority in the healthcare sector. Even with some challenges facing countries, such as unpreparedness in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of proper facilities, several other strategies have been used to ensure that any emergency case is handled properly. While tackling medical emergencies may have been a challenge at first, the progress being made is promising.