World Health Day: Make hospitals safe in emergencies

World Health Day: Make hospitals safe in emergencies

The World Health Day (7 April 2009) focuses on the safety of health facilities and the readiness of health workers who treat those affected by emergencies. Health centres and staff are critical lifelines for vulnerable people in disasters - treating injuries, preventing illnesses and caring for people's health needs.

They are cornerstones for primary health care in communities – meeting everyday needs, such as safe childbirth services, immunizations and chronic disease care that must continue in emergencies. Often, already fragile health systems are unable to keep functioning through a disaster, with immediate and future public health consequences.

This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and international partners are underscoring the importance of investing in health infrastructure that can withstand hazards and serve people in immediate need. They are also urging health facilities to implement systems to respond to internal emergencies, such as fires, and ensure the continuity of care.

Particularly in low and middle-income countries, the heavily burdened health systems with raging epidemics and limited health facilities and trained healthcare workers, often fuel the debate between strengthen health systems and single-disease vertical interventions. However the role of strong and robust health systems, which are well funded, resourced and have adequate skilled human resource to provide services to all those who need it, is certainly a vision that the world is striving to achieve.

Even in developed countries like USA, data reveals on how access to healthcare remains a privilege and is often beyond the reach of the most underserved communities.

The paradigm shift will occur when communities that seek healthcare services, are treated with dignity as equal partners along with healthcare workers in improving health systems. It is honestly not only a clinical or medical issue. The genuine partnership between healthcare workers and communities based on equity, dignity and respect, will certainly radically improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare services.