World Health Organization (WHO)
World Health Organization (WHO)

Officials in the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that many hospitals and health care systems worldwide should train their staff better on the use of COVID-19 drugs and scale up oxygen supply to better fight against the pandemic.

“We’re missing commodities, but our systems are also missing capabilities,” said Michael Ryan, WHO Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Program, at a press conference. He noted that many hospitals need “trained doctors and nurses in the frontline of a health service that can do a proper clinical examination” or staff that knew “which drug, which care that patient needs.”

The WHO advocated for a “health-centered approach” and that oxygen and drugs should be used wisely, said Ryan.

Ryan gave the example of dexamethasone, a “life-saving” anti-inflammatory steroid which should be “given at the right time in the right patient, because it doesn’t stop the virus, it stops the dramatic inflammation that results in oxygen not transferring into the blood.”

Another example was Remdesivir, a COVID-19 treatment that “did not have a benefit in terms of mortality or in terms of deterioration” but could “reduce hospitalization duration,” said Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of the organization. Swaninathan repeated that “physicians and doctors” should use such drugs “judiciously, wisely and at the right time.”

She also mentioned that countries should increase their oxygen supply as “oxygen is probably the most essential and the most life-saving right now of all the drugs.” Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead on COVID-19, said WHO and partners have been working around the world to scale up oxygen availability in countries.

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