* Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal of Hamad says country’s healthcare system would have been overwhelmed had it not been for the restrictions imposed and the public health measures taken
More than a million Covid-19 infections have been prevented by the steps Qatar has taken to combat the pandemic, one of the country’s leading health officials has told a webinar organized by a Qatar Foundation partner university.
Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Hamad Medical Corporation, explained during an Al Maerifa Public Seminar hosted by Texas A&M University at Qatar that without the restrictions and public health measures put in place when Covid-19 struck, the impact of the virus on Qatar would have been so serious that it would have overwhelmed the nation’s healthcare system.
Instead, he said, the country has been able to stay resilient and avoid having to prioritize care for some patients over others, while recording one of the world’s lowest Covid-19 mortality rates – and taking some positives for the future.
“Due to the interventions we implemented, we flattened the curve to the extent that the peak number of infections was 79 percent lower than it would have been had no public health measures been taken,” Dr. Al Khal told the event, titled Qatar’s Response To The Covid-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned.
“Without implementing restrictions and public health measures, the peak of the pandemic would have come very quickly and with a much larger number of infections. We can only imagine what the impact on our healthcare system would have been if one million more people had been affected, but our interventions led to an estimated 77 percent reduction in daily acute care hospital admissions.
“Every death means so much to a family and to the country, and is an extremely sad loss. However, with excellent standards of care and early detection and treatment, we have kept mortality rates very low. The response of the healthcare system on criticality and mortality has been remarkable.”
Dr. Al Khal told the webinar that the preparedness of Qatar’s healthcare system – in terms of both personnel and infrastructure – meant it was able to rapidly expand the number of acute care beds available, redeploy staff, and treat Covid-19 cases in dedicated facilities. “The emphasis on broad testing, coupled with proactive early treatment, may also have limited the number of people who went on to require hospitalization or develop severe or critical disease,” he added.
“The early, rapid, standardized, and universal assessment and care of cases prevented much higher Covid-19 severity, criticality, and mortality.”
Speaking about what Qatar has learned from Covid-19, Dr. Al Khal said: “The pandemic has been devastating for the whole world, but nevertheless positives have come out of it.
“It has demonstrated that being prepared does help, and in Qatar we have been preparing again and again for pandemics and have strengthened our infrastructure in order to deal with them. We never imagined anything of the magnitude of Covid-19 – I don’t think anybody did – but because we were prepared, we were able to quickly respond and we are much better equipped now to deal with pandemics or other health crises in the future.
“The pandemic has shown that there is so much good out there – we have seen the solidarity of the public, and the will that everyone has shown to help and care for others and contribute to the fight against Covid-19. The healthcare system and its academic and research partners have also worked in unison and integrated to address the pandemic to an extent that has perhaps never been seen before.
“We have also realized that everyone has something to share and to teach others, and that we have so much to learn from each other, and I think we are now an even smarter nation because of this. We’ve learned how innovative we can be, we have a better understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, and we are better at delivery of our services, joint research efforts, and infection control.
“And we have come to recognize how truly valuable our healthcare professionals are, as they have worked long, long hours to take care of patients, track and trace contacts, and implement public health measures.”
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