* National outreach programme includes elderly telephone reassurance service launched on April 18: HMC
Qatar has collaborated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop a Covid-19 risk reduction plan for older people, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has said.
"Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Global evidence indicates that older adults, especially those with chronic health conditions, are at higher risk of getting severely ill if they contract the virus. Qatar has been a strategic partner in the World Health Organisation’s global efforts to develop guidelines and frameworks for interventions that also focus on at risk population groups, such as older persons," HMC said in a statement Tuesday.
A comprehensive plan has been prepared to reach out to the elderly to give them information and help them get the right care, according to Dr Hanadi al-Hamad, the national lead for healthy ageing in Qatar, medical director of Rumailah Hospital and Qatar Rehabilitation Institute, and one of the international experts contributing to the WHO Advisory for Dementia.
Accordingly, an elderly telephone reassurance service has been launched with staff from the Geriatric and Long-term Care Department at HMC contacting people who are 60 years and older, the statement notes.
An additional aim of this initiative is to identify any potential healthcare risks early on and arrange appropriate medical care. This approach aims to reduce the danger of the healthcare issue becoming more acute and possibly requiring hospitalisation, it explains.
“Older people are a vulnerable group as their immunity tends to be lower than younger people, especially if they have other health problems, such as heart or kidney disease, or are being treated for cancer or other illnesses. A less strong immune system means their bodies are less able to fight off a viral infection. As there is no vaccine for this virus, the emphasis worldwide is largely on adopting precautionary measures for prevention and slowing down the transmission of the illness,” said Dr al-Hamad.
“It is important for our older population to maintain physical distancing measures outlined by the government for their protection as well as others, and for this to continue during Ramadan and possibly Eid. It is equally important that this is not misinterpreted as social isolation as that could have detrimental effect on our elderly’s physical and mental well-being.
Social isolation and limited access to Covid-19-related information or even access to misinformation through various social media channels can compound the challenge of keeping them safe and reducing the need to visit a hospital.
"We have, therefore, developed a comprehensive plan to reach out to the elderly to give them information they may not have seen or understood, and to help them get the right care they need. Whether checking if they have enough medication or reminding them about the importance of social distancing, or just to ask how they are feeling; these important calls are designed to reassure them that their healthcare team is there for them.”
As a senior consultant geriatrician, Dr al-Hamad is keenly aware of the challenges that older people with health problems face generally and especially during the current situation that restricts social interaction. While the current precautionary measures are there to reduce the risk of the virus spreading among our older adults, the potential for social isolation can also be difficult for them, the statement adds.
Dr al-Hamad recently teamed up with WHO experts to develop an Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Long-Term Care Facilities, within the context of Covid-19 outbreak. She is also jointly venturing with the WHO to lay out guidance for older people and Covid-19 with a focus on older people and their households, health and social care workers and the broader community. These efforts are expected to create a positive and long-lasting impact in the care of elderly services.
HMC takes special care of elderly
Hamad Medical Corporation has ensured the continuation of all its services for the elderly across the country, a consultant physician from the Geriatrics Department told Qatar TV Tuesday.
"We have spoken to each of them over the phone to ensure they have adequate knowledge about the new coronavirus (Covid-19) and ways of protection and prevention," explained Dr Amir Ibrahim Abdullah.
The department sees to it that they continue to receive all the due medical, psychological and physical care, in addition to maintaining good nutrition practices.
The virtual elderly people clinic has also been launched to make video calls to check the health status of the elderly and provide the due health care accordingly.
The Urgent Medical Care system for the elderly, launched at Rumailah Hospital, provides them the required care round-the-clock at one location so as to prevent any risk of contracting Covid-19.
They are mostly treated the same day and discharged.
Dr Abdullah stressed that HMC alongside the whole society is there for the support and care of the elderly while maintaining social distancing for their protection as they are among the most vulnerable to Covid-19.