1. In your opinion what are the main challenges facing family health, in general, and women in particular, due to the COVID-19 pandemic (insights from your patients’ experiences and treatment journey).
The COVID-19 pandemic has unexpectedly transformed access to, and the organization of, health services for families, including women and children. Resources for healthcare were sometimes diverted to support COVID-19 care. Providing essential services was disrupted. In March, at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a complete lockdown and families did not have access to health services and did not know whom to contact for questions about their health conditions. Health centers and private clinics were closed and the only option was to go to emergency rooms for urgent issues. Health services for pregnant women were not available or delayed. In addition, it was not possible for women to seek family planning services, which was later partially solved by allowing pharmacies to open to provide medicine and other family planning resources. Even when health centers and clinics resumed their activities, women were reluctant to seek medical care for fear of getting infected. Maintaining essential health services for women, children, and adolescents while mitigating the pandemic’s impact represents an unprecedented challenge.
2. We would like to know your reflections on the Jordanian health system, and its response to the pandemic, including successful interventions undertaken and areas for improvement.
When the pandemic started, the Government of Jordan took immediate action. Jordan's National Epidemiological Committee and Ministry of Health, as early as January 26, designated certain hospitals to treat COVID-19 infections and established several protocols to deal with the arrival of the coronavirus to the country, five weeks before the country recorded its first case on March 2, and developed the National Preparedness and Response Plan. The Ministry of Health has been continually building the capacity of providers on contact tracing, diagnosis and management of COVID-19 cases, and infection prevention and control, in addition to training lab technicians on testing and increasing the capacity of labs to test more samples. Personal protective equipment (PPE)was made available to healthcare providers. The government also increased its capacity by engaging the private sector and building field hospitals. The government continues to build its capacity to address the pandemic, for example through continued expansion of testing capacity to stop the spread of infections.
3. As the Senior Population and Health Advisor at USAID in Jordan, please share with us the impact of USAID-funded projects that have targeted health care services. We would appreciate specific examples on their contributions and achievements pertaining to healthcare quality and emergency preparedness.
I will highlight some of the work USAID achieved redirecting nearly the entire health program to support the Government of Jordan in its preparedness and response plan while teleworking. Since the beginning, together with the Ministry of Health and WHO, USAID co-chaired working groups with other donors to coordinate support efforts, and USAID has contributed to each of the pillars of the National COVID-19 Response Plan.
- We supported the Ministry of Health to strengthen the capacity of healthcare providers on case management. Specifically, to train Jordan’s intensive care and pneumologists, trainers were top notch local and Jordanian-American physicians from some of the best hospitals in the U.S. Over 2,400 specialist doctors and nurses have benefitted from this two-way exchange of the latest expertise in treating critical cases of COVID-19.
- USAID has trained more than 9,000 healthcare providers throughout Jordan on how to screen, triage, and care for COVID-19 cases, and more than 1,100 health care workers on how to apply appropriate infection prevention and control precautions to limit the spread of the virus in their facilities.
- Launched hospital readiness assessments to identify gaps and develop action plans in 36 hospitals and 20 health centers to make sure they are ready to receive and care for COVID-19 patients, and supported action plans to address identified gaps.
- Supported lab capacity to scale up testing from 500 tests per day in March to over 25,000 tests per day at the end of 2020.
- A social behavior change campaign launched in the autumn to promote key individual behaviors (correct mask usage and maintaining safe physical distances) has reached over 7M people in total, through television, radio, news websites, outdoor digital screens, and SMS messages.
4. Was the work of the activities disrupted during to COVID-19 and will USAID continue support to COVID-19 programs?
One good example of how our work continued is USAID’s completion of the expansion of Al Bashir Emergency Hospital. The work continued uninterrupted through the COVID-19 lockdown, and the facility was inaugurated in August 2020 and was designated for some time to care for COVID-19 cases. Additionally, with funds from the Joint Financing Agreement/Multi-Donor Account, USAID supported the establishment of an ICU and the rehabilitation and equipping of the surgical department at Al Bashir Hospitals. However, progress on other activities were disrupted and shifted to focus on COVID-19 support. For example, USAID Al Bashir Hospital preparation for accreditation activity implemented by HCAC was disrupted, and some activities were shifted to respond to specific COVID-19 needs, such as the purchasing of PPE for the hospital staff and training on infection prevention. COVID-19-related programming will continue, as well as support for essential health services.
5. How would you address the widespread misconceptions and rumors surrounding the disease and the effectiveness of COVID-19 response measures (i.e., the use of personal protective equipment, physical distancing, etc.)?
COVID-19 is a serious killer. Many families around us lost loved ones. People need to take precautions to protect themselves and others. The simple way to do this is to comply with infection prevention measures by keeping distance, wearing a mask whenever you are next to people, and frequently washing your hands. I urge everyone to register for the vaccine, and to take the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you. It is also important that once someone suspects infection to immediately isolate himself and herself and do the test. Having a negative test does not rule out the infection. Repeat the test after a few days and contact the Ministry of Health for guidance. Visit the Ministry of Health website and get your information from reliable sources.
Dr. Nagham Abu Shakra
Health and Population Advisor / Project Management Specialist at USAID