EHS-COVID (290) WHO and HIFA: Maintaining essential health services during the pandemic (5) Disruption of surgery services

12 May, 2021

Dear Sanchika,

Thank you for your comment.

Our discussions so far suggest that 'COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the delivery of essential health services worldwide. Impacts have included disruption of services, with services such as childbirth, family planning and immunization especially impacted. Undue fear of contagion has led people to avoid health services. Deaths and illness of health workers have further eroded care. The importance of community health workers is noted, especially to maintain services for vulnerable people. Examples of adaptation were provided, such as door-to-door campaigns to maintain immunization coverage' (summary, in publication)

On behalf of WHO and HIFA I would like to invite further commentary, especially from HIFA members who are working on the front line. How has COVID-19 affected the delivery of essential health services in your health facility or country?

From South Africa we heard from Mmusetsi Mokwatsi, a Child Nurse Specialist at the Kimberley Hospital Complex: "In South Africa, 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 the UK thousands of elective surgeries have been cancelled or postponed by the infodemic. Can HIFA members describe what is happening in other countries, for both elective and routine surgery?

What other essential services have been most disrupted in your experience?

We welcome personal experience and case examples, from which we can often learn more than from research papers.

With thanks,


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 movement (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: