COVID-19 and TB in PNG: A Healthcare Opportunity

The COVID-19 epidemic has infected all 22 provinces of Papua New Guinea, resulting in the deaths of many individuals. WHO data claim that more than 43,600 cases and 649 fatalities have been reported. As a result, the actual burden is almost certainly higher.

Public health has been threatened by the emergence of COVID-19, which has necessitated the redeployment of resources from other priorities, like tuberculosis (TB). The PNG government, for example, has committed K45.3 million to the implementation of its COVID-19 plan, and has pledged to provide additional funds if necessary. In addition, the Australian government’s newly constructed TB facility at Angau Hospital has been relocated to COVID-19.

The implementation of the TB control programme is in jeopardy, but the opportunity to improve the healthcare system is also present. The current pandemic could be alleviated by broadening the use of the improvements that have been implemented. Improved health systems in Papua New Guinea will be better equipped to deal with the rising burden of chronic diseases brought on by an ageing population as well as future public health threats.

Essential healthcare has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Diagnosis, treatment, and the provision of medications have all been plagued by lengthy delays. Nearly 80 million children around the world have not received their annual doses of diphtheria, measles, and polio vaccines. During the pandemic period, up to 70% of scheduled surgeries were postponed or cancelled.

However, the pandemic has served as an impetus for much-needed changes in healthcare settings, making major adjustments possible.

Personal hygiene practises and easy access to clean water are critical components of the fight against the spread of coronavirus in health care facilities, as is ensuring that patients with suspected or confirmed cases are physically separated from each other and from each other’s patients, as well as making sure that health workers are using PPE (personal protective equipment) on a regular basis.

A recent WHO media release highlighted the opportunity to improve PNG’s healthcare systems, specifically infection prevention and control (IPC) in healthcare settings, with the resources allocated for COVID-19. It has been decades since IPC has been given the attention it deserves, and COVID-19 has served as a stark reminder of its importance.

The Director-General of WHO provided a report on the impact of the spread of infections and antimicrobial resistance associated with healthcare at the 150th Executive Board meeting, where IPC was discussed recently. Gaps and challenges were identified, as well as IPC’s top priorities at the national and international levels, in the report. These are the top priorities:

Health care workers and patients alike should have access to clean, safe, and high-quality care at all times.

Second, pandemic, and global health security planning must include IPC as a core component.

Make sure that IPC and WASH programmes and infrastructures that have been recently implemented (COVID-19 response) can be sustained.

The prevention and control of tuberculosis infection (TBIPC) is an important public health strategy in PNG’s fight against the disease. TBIPC measures such as patient isolation, triaging, cough hygiene and the use of ventilation systems and respiratory masks remain inadequate in many healthcare facilities. Health care workers, patients, and the public are all at risk of contracting tuberculosis because of a dearth of TBIPC policies.

For PNG’s IPC plans to be successful, it will take significant and ongoing financial support. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the health sector can improve the primary healthcare system in order to create a dynamic localised system for dealing with new health threats at the local level.. Short-term innovations have been stimulated by COVID-19, but long-term ones that can be sustained after the COVID-19 crisis have also been made possible. The healthcare system in Papua New Guinea needs to be reformed for the benefit of all its citizens.

This year’s COVID-19 is spreading all over the world. There are several factors that will determine the long-term effects of IPC and other socio-economic policies adopted by countries. Pandemic threatens WHO End TB Strategy, but COVID-19 could be catalyst to achieve WHO target of eliminating TB, by improving IPC strategies in healthcare institutions.

PNG’s health system has been boosted by COVID-19, which has raised awareness of IPC and sparked new ideas for improvement. As a result of the coronavirus fight, the health sector can use the lessons learned to refocus its efforts on TB control and build a stronger, more resilient health system that can handle both emerging public health threats and endemic health issues like TB.