EHS-COVID (23) Reinforcing key health services amid COVID-19

9 November, 2020

Extracts below from a news releaase on the WHO Africa Regional Health Office website. Read online:

This report focuses on Ghana. 'Adapting WHO guidance, the country has developed a national plan for the maintenance of essential health services and identified key services that must be provided during the pandemic.'

Comment from me below.


Reinforcing key health services amid COVID-19

05 November 2020

Accra – Thousands of vaccinators fanned through villages and towns across 73 districts in Ghana, immunizing more than 4.6 million children against vaccine-derived poliovirus. Mass immunization campaigns, like many key health services, have suffered a heavy jolt dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health authorities in Ghana are now reviving and reinforcing essential services to not only better withstand disruption in case of a new COVID-19 wave but also improve quality. The latest rounds of polio vaccinations carried out in October had had been scheduled for April and May but were shelved in the face of rising COVID-19 cases that overstretched the health system, prompted movement restrictions as well as a ban on mass gatherings.

To safely resume the mass immunization drive, vaccinators were trained on COVID-19 prevention, provided with personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers. Meanwhile, measures to limit COVID-19 transmission are also being implemented in hospitals and health centres as key services are bolstered. In health facilities, pre-triaging spaces have been set up to screen patients before being allowed to seek consultation in a bid to mitigate risks of exposing the patients and health workers to the virus.

Investments have also been made to improve health worker knowledge and skills, and to bolster the health infrastructure. The supply of essential medical materials, including through local manufacturing, is also being enhanced.

Dr Anthony Adofo Ofosu, the Deputy Director General at Ghana Health Service in charge of essential health services, says that in addition to the investments, the lessons learnt during the polio vaccination campaign and the measures being taken to minimize COVID-19 infections as people seek treatment are strengthening the provision of essential services amid the pandemic.

“We have learnt a lot in this period on how to provide these services while protecting both our health workers and the public from COVID-19 infection,” he says. “We have been quite successful in reviving our essential services.”...

Collaborating with World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, Ghana has over the last three months worked to steer essential health services back on track. Adapting WHO guidance, the country has developed a national plan for the maintenance of essential health services and identified key services that must be provided during the pandemic...

With the efforts to restore essential services beginning to pay off, Dr Ofosu of the Ghana Health Service says that “the country is in a better position to ensure the continuity of these essential services should there be a second wave in COVID -19 infections.”


Comment (NPW): This is a positive and optimistic report from Ghana. The internmational guidance to which is refers is WHO's Maintaining essential health services: operational guidance for the COVID-19 context interim guidance (June 2020).

It would be very useful to review the national plan would be useful as a basis for sharing of experience and expertise on how to adapt the WHO guidance for use at country level. However, I was unable to find it on the MoH website and the WHO country office is returning a 404 error.

I would like to invite HIFA members in Ghana to share your observations.

Has a national plan for maintenance of essential health services been developed in other countries, drawing from the WHO guidance?

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, WHO-HIFA Collaboration: HIFA project on Essential Health Services and COVID-19

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: