Health System Preparedness for COVID-19 and Its Impacts on Frontline Health-Care Workers in Nepal: A Qualitative Study Among Frontline Health-Care Workers and Policy-Makers.
Shrestha N., Mishra SR., Ghimire S., Gyawali B., Marahatta SB., Maskey S., Baral S., Shrestha N., Yadav R., Pokharel S., Adhikari B.
BackgroundRapidly growing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the health system in Nepal. The main objective of this study was to explore the health system preparedness for COVID-19 and its impacts on frontline health-care workers in Nepal.MethodsSemi-structured interviews were conducted among 32 health-care workers who were involved in clinical care of COVID-19 patients and four policy-makers who were responsible for COVID-19 control and management at central and provincial level. Interviews were conducted through telephone or Internet-based tools such as Zoom and Skype. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed into English, and coded using inductive and deductive approaches.ResultsBoth health-care workers and policy-makers reported failure to initiate pre-emptive control measures at the early stages of the outbreak as the pivot in pandemic control. Although several measures were rolled out when cases started to appear, the overall health system preparedness was low. The poor governance, and coordination between three tiers of government was compounded by the inadequate personal protective equipment for health-care workers, insufficient isolation beds for patients, and poor engagement of the private sector. Frontline health-care workers experienced various degrees of stigma because of their profession and yet were able to maintain their motivation to continue serving patients.ConclusionPreparedness for COVID-19 was affected by the poor coordination between three tiers of governance. Specifically, the lack of human resources, inadequate logistic chain management and laboratory facilities for testing COVID-19 appeared to have jeopardized the health system preparedness and escalated the pandemic in Nepal. Despite the poor preparedness, and health and safety concerns, health-care workers maintained their motivation. There is an urgent need for an effective coordination mechanism between various tiers of health structure (including private sector) in addition to incentivizing the health-care workers for the current and future pandemics.