COVID-19: Beyond a pandemic
We do not know if the new Coronavirus pandemic will be eradicated quickly. In the meantime it has brought the entire planet to its knees, even with great differences from country to country. Above all, it has annihilated the responsiveness of health systems to all other diseases. Many patients have stayed out of hospitals, clinical tests have failed and many treatments have been stopped. By the end of the pandemic, we will have seen an increase in chronic disease and likely deaths, as well as COVID19 itself.
The EU seeks solutions. It is providing huge financial resources to member countries for use in health systems and has launched the EU4Health program to equip Europe with a state-of-the-art health facility. In addition, EU provided important financial resources for research and innovation (check the EU initiatives).
Exactly one year ago, the pandemic exploded in Europe, immediately hitting Italy. Then a wave of panic ensued, as the disease began to spread to other EU countries.
Governments have been forced to take drastic measures: border closures, imposed health regimes and blockades. Obligation to wear masks and social restrictions and difficulties for the economy. There is no doubt that Covid-19 is a serious, potentially morbid disease, medical professionals point out.
It is more dangerous than severe influenza and the data released by the WHO and the European Center for Disease, Prevention and Control clearly show it (see the real-time Statistics here).
From the beginning, Europe all governments have sought the most suitable treatments to treat COVID-19, the disease induced by the new coronavirus, and all possible protective measures for its spread.
Today, after 12 months we have the vaccines and vaccination campaign started everywhere.
Covid-19: What about other diseases?
Although scientists are constantly looking for the best solutions to the Covid-19, their efforts come at the expense of medical treatment for the conditions that afflict other patients.
The pandemic has slowed or stopped the treatment of other diseases, such as cancer, tuberculosis, and cardiovascular disease, as hospitals have reduced the number of patients admitted and access to specialists has become difficult.
Scheduled medical visits and treatment have been postponed or canceled and medical advice is being provided online.
Sick people often feel lost and helpless. Eventually, people who feared the infection stayed home and stopped treatment for their chronic illnesses.
This situation has negatively affected the company. However, the statistics are inexorable. Although the number of people who have died from Covid-19 is considerable (more than 47,000 in Poland until now), the death rate from other diseases has also increased.
According to the Central Statistical Office in Poland, the most common causes of death in the first half of 2020 were cancer and cardiovascular disease.
How does the situation look in other countries? This question has been the subject of many conferences, one of which I had the pleasure of attending.
First Congress Franco-Mediterranean Medical Association (AMFM): found arterial thrombosis, but many other diseases without adequate treatment
At the end of January 2021, the First Congress of the Franco-Mediterranean Medical Association (AMFM) took place in Paris.
Courtesy of MD Nizar Badran vice president of the association, I was invited to attend the debate, which brought together high-class specialists from various fields of medicine.
The Congress focused on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on patient treatment and doctors from various countries were invited to comment and exchange clinical experiences. The situation has proved more difficult for patients living in less developed countries, such as Syria, where access to medical care, particularly hospital care, has become significantly limited.
In Mediterranean countries, the SARS-COV-2 pandemic has led to a large-scale cancellation of elective surgical procedures and operations in the area of 50%. Patients had to wear special respiratory masks and many of them had to be isolated to avoid any risk of contamination. Speakers also noted that COVID-19 negatively reflects on vascular surgery operations, leading to distortions in the hospital’s ability to perform surgeries.
Dr. Aleksandre Karsenti presented a medical study that demonstrated complications of arterial thrombosis in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
Dr. Mimi Karech highlighted the difficulties in treating diseases of the kidneys and urinary system during the pandemic regime. The situation of dialysis patients in hospitals has become more complicated and a special protection system should be used.
Other scientists from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine and France have also drawn attention to the negative influence of COVID-19 on other human organs such as the heart and respiratory tract and the risk of digestive and psychological disorders. A considerable number of patients have been affected by the lockdown, which has been the cause of nervous breakdowns, anxiety and depression. Most doctors agree that treating post-COVID patients will be the new challenge in medicine today.
Post-Covid19: do old diseases become more insidious?
The EU’s annual regional and local barometer analyzed the negative influence of Covid-19 on medical care, concluding that each country’s health systems have been negatively impacted. The Eurostat publication indicates that the death rate is significantly lower in Eastern EU countries than in other EU Member States, e.g. Spain and Italy.
Covid-19 accelerates the mortality of people with pre-existing conditions who cannot be treated effectively during the pandemic period.
In many countries, as France, Germany, UK, Spain and Italy major elective surgeries were cancelled due to the want of nursing staff, anaesthetists, equipment, etc. Virtually, no branch of medicine has been left unaffected by the virus.
Governments recommend that people stay indoors. However, these long periods of loneliness and closures have affected the psyche and contributed to obesity. WHO warns of a significant number of people who are at risk as being overweight or obese is associated with worse disease outcomes.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, around 800 million people worldwide suffer from obesity and this number is growing.
Obesity is related to diabetes and cardiovascular disease which increase the chances of serious outcomes for patients with Covid-19.
Meanwhile, with vaccinations going on around the world, we wonder if they will restore a normal life.
What about Europe after Covid19? We will have a European Health System?
What will Europe (and the world) be like after the Covid-19 crisis?
Will it contribute to greater integration and solidarity in the EU? Common threats usually bring people closer.
Will there be more and better medical Centres that will preemptively work on the health security of EU citizens?
Will there be a common EU health policy?
EU Heads of State and government asked the European Commission to report by June 2021 on the lessons learned so far from the Covid-19 pandemic and who to increase the health resilience of EU citizens. The task at hand is to restore health after the Covid-19 crisis.
In May 2020, the Commission put forward a new stand-alone EU4Health program for 2021-2027, as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. EU4Health aims to help the EU to be better prepared for major cross-border health threats and to make national health systems more resilient.
After a compromise on the budget and content reached by Parliament and the Council on 14 December 2020, the European Parliament adopted the program last 9 March.
The new EU4Health program will contribute in areas where the EU can clearly add value, thus complementing Member States’ policies.
Its main goals include strengthening health systems by supporting countries to coordinate with each other and share data, as well as making medicines and medical devices more available, accessible and affordable.
As the goal is to make health systems more resilient, EU4Health will prepare them more thoroughly for key cross-border health threats. This should enable the EU to address not only future epidemics but also long-term challenges such as an aging population and health inequalities.
The program will also support actions related to e-health and the creation of the “European Health Data Space“. Promoting access to quality health care, including access to sexual and reproductive health care, improving mental health and accelerating the fight against cancer will also be supported.