Just shy of seven months since the World Health Organization (WHO) first received reports of a cluster of cases of “pneumonia of an unknown cause” in China, the WHO has issued a policy brief about preventing and managing COVID-19 across long-term care services. The COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than 13 million people around the world and claimed the lives of nearly 600,000. More than 40 percent of those deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities. In some high-income countries, that figure balloons to 80 percent.
The WHO brief outlines 11 policy objectives and key action points aimed to prevent and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 across the long-term care spectrum, including home and community-based care. Additionally, the brief suggests ways to transform health and long-term care services to increase the likelihood that they are integrated into the continuum of care.
Geared toward policy makers and authorities involved in the pandemic, these eleven recommendations are built upon evidence-based measures taken to prevent, prepare and respond to the pandemic:
- Include long-term care in all phases of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Mobilize adequate funding for long-term care to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Ensure effective monitoring and evaluation of the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care and ensure efficient information channeling between health and long-term care systems to optimize responses.
- Secure staff and resources, including adequate health workforce and health products, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and delivery quality long-term care services.
- Ensure the continuum and continuity of essential services for people receiving long-term care, including promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliation.
- Ensure that infection prevention and control standards are implemented and adhered to in all long-term care settings to prevent and safely manage COVID-19 cases.
- Prioritize testing, contact tracing and monitoring of the spread of COVID-19 among people receiving and providing long-term care services.
- Provide support for family and volunteer caregivers.
- Prioritize the psychosocial well-being of people receiving and providing long-term care services.
- Ensure a smooth transition to the recovery phase.
- Initiate steps for transformation of health and long-term care systems to appropriately integrate and ensure continuous, effective governance of long-term care services.
July 29, 2020 – C. St. John