Make hospitals safe in emergencies

In lead up to the World Health Day (7th April), interview with the President-elect 2012 of the India's largest association of surgeons has a coherent message: Make hospitals safe in emergencies. "We have been neglecting the safety of health facilities and the readiness of healthcare 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" said Prof (Dr) Rama Kant, President-elect 2012 of Association of Surgeons of India (ASI).

"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" said Prof (Dr) Rama Kant who was conferred upon the coveted World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General's Award in 2005.

"I will like to underscore the importance of investing in health infrastructure that can withstand hazards and serve people in immediate need. I will also urge health facilities to implement systems to respond to internal emergencies, such as fires, and ensure the continuity of care" said Prof (Dr) Rama Kant who is the former Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS) of Gandhi Memorial and Associated Hospitals.

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. Diseases today are not just diseases, there are social determinants that are at play putting people at risk of getting sick. 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. time to ponder as we approach this year's World Health Day on 7th April.