IJERPH, Vol. 19, Pages 12522: Interventions for Maintenance of Essential Health Service Delivery during the COVID-19 Response in Uganda, between March 2020 and April 2021 (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed health systems globally and affected the delivery of health services. We conducted a study in Uganda to describe the interventions adopted to maintain the delivery of other health services. Methods: We reviewed documents and interviewed 21 key informants. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify themes using the World Health Organization health system building blocks as a guiding framework. Results: Governance strategies included the establishment of coordination committees and the development and dissemination of guidelines. Infrastructure and commodity strategies included the review of drug supply plans and allowing emergency orders. Workforce strategies included the provision of infection prevention and control equipment, recruitment and provision of incentives. Service delivery modifications included the designation of facilities for COVID-19 management, patient self-management, dispensing drugs for longer periods and the leveraging community patient networks to distribute medicines. However, multi-month drug dispensing led to drug stock-outs while community drug distribution was associated with stigma. Conclusions: Health service maintenance during emergencies requires coordination to harness existing health system investments. The essential services continuity committee coordinated efforts to maintain services and should remain a critical element of emergency response. Self-management and leveraging patient networks should address stigma to support service continuity in similar settings and strengthen service delivery beyond the pandemic.