People Living with Non-Communicable Diseases in the era of Covid-19 are the most affected in regard success to healthcare. The majority of people living with NCDs (PLWNCDs) have had disruptions in their healthcare services due to focused on Covid-19 cases leaving them to the irate. Meanwhile NCDs are the leading cause of deaths in the world today, killing 41 million people each year, yet governments and global leaders have paid little attention to it.
The Ghana NCD Alliance by this release seeks to highlight the challenges faced by people Living with NCDs in are cent survey it conducted and its implication for healthcare services and the attainment of Ghana’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030 and the need for government to pay undivided attention to NCDs and PLWNCD seven beyond Covid-19.
Whilst the world is struggling to address the emerging threats of NCDs, such as hypertension, diabetes, liver disorder, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, stroke, etc. another pandemic (coronavirus) emerges having massive negative health impact.
The health systems in many countries have been overstretched and not able to respond appropriately to the challenges imposed by the deadly pandemic. Ghana and many other countries including the developed economies have not adequately invested and prioritized NCDs as a national and global pandemic, hence the devastating effects on people living with NCDs and other chronic health conditions. The introduction of safety measures such as social distancing, transport lockdowns, mandatory face mask, and closure of outpatient services among others, resulted in the disruption of routine NCD and other chronic service delivery.
“COVID-19 significantly impacts health services for cancer, cardiovascular disease & diabetes – a survey run by WHO with responses from 155 countries has shown: https://bit.ly/2UeAbPV It’s vital that countries find innovative ways to continue essential services to beat NCDs” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Globally, it is reported that people living with NCDs experienced a multitude of challenges, however in the Ghanaian context; little information exists on NCDs and Covid-19, and the experiences of people living with NCDs amidst the global pandemic. There have however been concerns from the government that the majority of the Covid-19 cases and mortalities recorded in Ghana are as a result of NCDs.
The Ghana NCD Alliance as part of efforts in contributing to national NCDs response and ensuring people living with NCDs needs and priorities are enhanced, conducted a rapid qualitative survey aimed to understand the challenges faced by people living with NCDs in this Covid-19erainGhana.The evidence-based survey also draws recommendations to inform thenationalCovid-19 response in the context of the country’s multiple disease burdens, particularly NCDs, other chronic diseases, and the need for health system strengthening.
Data was collected from 127 persons living with stroke, diabetes, hypertension, sickle cell, chronic heart disease, asthma, cancer, and breast cancer from Greater Accra, Ashanti, Eastern, and Northern regions. The study revealed that a significant number of persons living with NCDs were hugely affected in different ways following the Covid-19pandemic, especially during the three weeks lockdown.
The numerous challenges faced by people living with NCDs on daily basis attest to a falling achieving the Universal Health Coverage, by 2030.
“I run out of medication and had to rely on a co-tenant to share his diabetes drugs because I could not access the prescribed drugs from the community pharmacy as they had none”. Essel Francis Cudjoe, a person living with diabetes
“Ihaveexperienceddisruptionsinaccessingmymedicationsduetothehighcost charged by the pharmacy which was above my financial strength. I had to stay home due to fear and anxiety and my compromised immune system. We can no longer hide the fact that NCDs is a national crisis and the needs of persons living with divers non-communicable diseases can no longer be neglected” Christopher Agbega, a person living with Motor Sensory Neuropathy.
The findings revealed that PLWNCDs were given less attention when they visit the hospitals for the irregular reviews and the majority reported was told not to return to the hospital since the focus was on Covid-19 cases.
Some of the key challenges expressed by people living with NCDs included;
- NCD medication often prescribed by doctors not covered by the NHIS
- Fear of visiting healthcare centers due to fear of contracting the Covid-19
- Difficulties in accessing prescribed medications those were out of stock in most healthcare facilities
- Lack of access to physiotherapy services during Covid-19 in most health centers
- Inability to undergo scheduled surgeries as Doctors refused to perform surgeries due to Covid-19
The following are recommendations shared by people living with NCDs and caregivers;
- The government should as part of treatment; care and support absorb medical bills of persons living with NCDs under the NHIS
- Psychologists should be stationed at all health centers to provide counseling to PLWNCDs to prevent an escalation of their condition
- Intensify education on Covid-19 and NCDs to reduce stigma, neglect, and discrimination
- Physiotherapy centers should be accessible with ease at all health centers to cater for the needs of stroke patients as government devises strategies and plans towards responding to this pandemic and beyond, the Ghana NCD Alliance calls on government to consider the findings of this evidence-based document in the light of the following;
The high rates of NCDs undiagnosed cases and poor levels of control for NCDs, especially diabetes, hypertension, cancers, etc. in the country
- The National Policy on the management and control of NCD
- National U H C roadmap to deliver evidence-based primary healthcare for people with NCDs;
- National Covid-19 response strategy to address the pandemic
- National Health Insurance Scheme to cover the cost of NCDs
- Government to consider developing standard NCD guidelines for all healthcare centers