EHS-COVID (79) Child health in South Africa (2) Impact of COVID-19 on elective surgery, cancer and diabetes services

22 November, 2020

Dear HIFA Colleagues,

I'm following very keenly the interesting dialogue on Delivery of Essential Health Services during this pandemic.

The message below from South Africa raises a very worrisome issue 'sad thing was that children who tested positive for COVID-19 and were due to have surgery, were send back to their referring hospital. These are children coming as far as Eastern Cape province, North West province and Swaziland. They had travelled all this way to have their surgery done and they had to go back without the surgery'.

In my personal opinion would it be more sensible to presume all patients could be COVID positive and ensure standard precautions (PPE etc.) prior to any surgical interventions, than turning them away after they tested COVID positive? This has been the reality in LMICs that the patients kept seeking care from one to the other health facilities (often not informing of their tests).

The rich experiences shared in this forum by the health professionals and managers from the field clearly show us the impact of disrupted delivery of care of Non-Urgent Essential Health Services.

While we know that urgent services continued, we would like to hear of your experiences on disruptions or delay in non-urgent surgical procedures, cancer and diabetes?

How were the vulnerable and marginalised population (older people, women, children and refugees) particularly affected?

Best wishes

Dr Meena Nathan Cherian MBBS, MD (Anaesthesia) Hon. Prof. Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, WHO Collaborating Centre, Western University, Ontario, Canada.

Senior Advisor, Global Action, International Society of Geriatric Oncology (SIOG), Chatelaine, Switzerland.

Director, Emergency & Surgical Care program, Geneva Foundation for Medical Education & Research (GFMER), Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva, Switzerland

+41 763837253(m); +41 22 782 2473;

HIFA profile: Meena Cherian is Director, Emergency & Surgical Care program, Geneva Foundation of Medical Education and Research, Geneva, Switzerland. She is a member of the HIFA working group on Essential Health Services and COVID-19. cherianm15 AT