What were the highlights for PHCC in 2020?
It would be difficult to talk about primary healthcare without talking about COVID-19, as the pandemic changed our lives significantly. We sought to be proactive in ensuring a continuity of care through the family medicine model. That was launched at the end of 2019, and we wanted to expand further in 2020. COVID-19 made it easy for us in certain aspects, as we were already trying to deliver digital services and found ourselves pushing hard to provide alternatives for one-to-one consultations or house visits, for example. Using e-services was the alternative during the pandemic; we introduced and piloted many e-services within primary healthcare. For example, our website provides several e-services such as online appointment bookings or changing one's family physician. We were following the news thoroughly and meticulously and decided to establish a strategy head command group under the leadership of the Ministry of Health. Under this initiative, we set up a community call center to respond to people's worries. We also did remote consultations by phone and video, which became almost the norm for more than 40% of our population who liked it. We assigned four of our 27 health centers as COVID-19 test centers, which made it easy for people to be directed to the right place.
What is your assessment on your communication with the Ministry of Health and the government during these months?
I was appointed national lead for integrated care as per the national health strategy, which is why Her Excellency assigned me to lead the community command group. It was the right decision to make myself available to the community and stay connected with the national level of health command. It gives me a great deal of leverage to communicate with any stakeholder or organization within the country. For example, when the decision was made by the higher authority to open the airport in August, we prepared for that to happen smoothly with Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport. We also had the opportunity to communicate with other entities and organizations such as Hamad Medical Corporation in terms of quarantine programs. It was a good opportunity for close collaboration and integration with each other. This constant communication resulted in further services, such as supplying our staff for labs or physiotherapy centers. We also provided a great deal of support to and were in close communication with the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Commerce and Trading, Ministry of Education and Higher Education, and Ministry of Labor, as there were many discussions to coordinate the services that should be open, closed, or placed under restrictions.
How has the preventive health directorate developed in the past year?
There was great progress at the beginning when we started. The area has been affected because of resources being drawn from outside the department to serve elsewhere within COVID-19 centers. Thus far, many of the programs were shifted or redirected. For example, we decided to stop our plans for prevention and wellness programs to focus on urgent and acute cases. Subsequently, we have resumed them gradually. We also provided online services like mental health services to help people manage their crises during this stressful time. In addition, many of the wellness program staff were assigned to education campaigns addressed at our clients. There was also screening for newborn immune disease, which was usually done in secondary care after delivery. The healthcare protection department played a key role in the pandemic. It had to train all staff on how to do swabbing and make sure the preventive measures were in place in collaboration with other departments such as Educational Health and Safety operations. Since our country is fairly small, we had the opportunity to control the situation easily. From the start of the pandemic, the intention was to control infections, and we managed to do so.