Healthcare workers’ preparedness to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana

Healthcare workers’ preparedness to respond to any pandemic is critical to containing disease spread. Many countries were, and remain, underprepared to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic due to limited resources, underinvestment, and competing priorities. This is especially true in low- and middle-income countries like Ghana. During the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems have struggled to get adequate PPE, testing kits, and hospital beds and failed to adequately prepared healthcare workers. Ghana’s constrained health system presents additional challenges to slowing the spread of the epidemic. 

While emerging studies have shown that healthcare workers have inadequate protocols and knowledge to respond to COVID-19, few studies have examined how healthcare workers feel about their preparedness to respond to the pandemic in Ghana. New research from Bixby members sought to examine this gap in research by surveying healthcare workers in Ghana. Researchers found that under a third of surveyed healthcare workers felt prepared to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lower levels of perceived preparedness were associated with a lack of training, access to personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 protocols, and isolation wards, in addition to poor communication from management.

Researchers also found that healthcare workers who had undergone training had felt significantly more prepared than those who did not receive training, likely because perceived knowledge increases their feeling that they can deal with the situation, However, general knowledge scores were not found to be associated with preparedness. Given the devastating implications of low preparedness in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical for the government of Ghana to intervene to increase healthcare workers’ preparedness to respond to the rapidly growing epidemic in the country. Such interventions should include providing adequate PPE; training on protocols for screening, diagnoses and management of cases; providing clear care guidelines; and having open communication across all levels.

More research is needed to evaluate perceived and actual preparedness of healthcare workers in other settings to inform the global response to the pandemic. Additional research is also needed on the impact of inadequate preparedness on the psychological and physical wellbeing of healthcare workers, COVID-19 prevalence among healthcare workers, quality of care, and patient outcomes.