As the nation begins to see its Covid-19 restrictions slowly ease, many of us are looking forward to the resumption of our usual lives and routines.
For people affected with complex and debilitating illnesses such as cancer, stroke, or dementia, however, the end is nowhere in sight. In fact, with the further extension of the Conditional Movement Control Order, things are expected to become far more difficult for them.
People living with these illnesses have normally struggled to gain access to the health care services and the medicines that they need, due to the challenges associated with transportation, long waiting times, and the financial costs involved.
The new normal threatens to erect additional barriers that prevent them from accessing health care.
Even as the travel restrictions that previously prevented patients from seeking health care begin to ease, social distancing rules still make it difficult for these people to use public transportation to get to their hospitals and clinics.
Covid-19 has also caused many of our hospitals to relocate certain health care services to different parts of the hospital or in some cases, to different hospitals altogether. This poses a great challenge for elderly patients, as well as those with stroke or dementia who may struggle to go to these new locations for their usual check-ups.
The fear of getting infected also keeps many of these people away from health care facilities, forgoing their check-ups as well as their medication refills.
Doctors are reporting that patients needing urgent angiograms, as well as those who have suffered heart attacks and strokes are staying away from hospitals. As a result, these patients suffer health complications that could have been avoidable.
We also do not know yet how Covid-19 will affect the availability of certain medicines in the hospital, as the pandemic threatens to consume a disproportionate amount of resources, but it is a legitimate concern for those who depend on their medicines to live.
Hospitals and health care industry players must ensure that Covid-19 does not overshadow the needs of these people and cause them to be neglected. We need to carefully study how to enable these people to receive the health care they need.
One way to reconsider how we deliver health care in Malaysia. Our health care system has traditionally been hospital and facility-focused, with patients needing to go to these facilities where health care services and pharmacies are centrally located at.
With the new normal, we need to make a transition towards bringing healthcare to the community and to the people’s homes. As Covid-19 has accelerated the transition towards teleconferences and remote working, it should also drive greater adoption of telemedicine, community-based health care, and medication delivery services.
Health policy makers and health care providers will need to work to make these services affordable and available to all.
Mark Cheong [MPharm, MBA, MA, PhD (Public Health)] is a lecturer at Monash University Malaysia.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.