“During the pandemic the need for health-care workers to visit patients and care for them at home has become increasingly important. Community health nurses and health mediators are often a person’s first point of contact with the health and social care system, and as members of the communities themselves, they have a unique understanding of the neighbourhoods and people they serve,” said Dr Cassandra Butu, acting WHO Representative in Romania.
To address this need, the WHO Country Office in Romania recently donated over 1 800 bicycles and helmets to health-care workers serving some of the most vulnerable communities, including those in rural areas where transport links are poor.
Providing vital health-care services to those most in need
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the restrictions put into place limited people’s ability to access health-care services and required many vulnerable people to self-isolate. Without the visits of community health-care workers many people would have seen their health suffer severely.
Particularly at risk were elderly patients who needed help with the delivery of basic goods, such as food, medicines and protective face masks, as well as regular health check-ups. Many patients with chronic conditions, disabilities and special needs required medical care that could not be postponed and could only be carried out at home due to the pressure on hospitals and risk of infection with COVID-19. In addition, pregnant women and new mothers needed regular health checks, practical training on correct breastfeeding techniques and nutrition, as well as immunization of their babies and infants.
Encouraging COVID-19 vaccine uptake
Another vital service provided by these health-care workers over the last year is mobilizing their communities to get vaccinated – informing people about the vaccination schedule, ensuring that they have not missed doses, educating them about vaccine benefits, and helping them to get to vaccination centres.
Reducing travel time
Community health nurses and health mediators serving their patients through home visits clock up hundreds of kilometres a month, which can be both tiring and time-consuming. The WHO-donated bicycles make a difference in delivering timely care where needed.
Mirela Cidoiu is one of the health mediators who received the equipment. “I serve a community of 7 000 residents across nine villages. Having a bicycle allows me to travel faster, visit more patients and be wherever and whenever I’m needed. It is fair to say that this means of transport will really help me in my work, not just during this global emergency, but also far beyond,” she said.
The equipment donation was made possible with the support of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, the Romanian Ministry of Health and the County Public Health Directorates as part of measures to invest in professionals providing essential health-care services in local communities during the pandemic.