From the CEO's desk- May 2020

May, 2020

For all of us, the last few weeks have been quite surreal. COVID-19 has had a major impact on countries around the globe, with very significant effects on the health systems and the economies. Health systems have been placed under immense strain and family doctors have had to quickly learn new ways of working, with virtual consultations and telemedicine becoming the norm in a very short space of time.

For WONCA too the effects have been significant. Thailand, home of the WONCA Secretariat, has imposed significant restrictions on movement and gatherings. Nevertheless, Dr Nongluck and her small team of Anuta (Accounts) and Mint (Admin) have worked hard to maintain services as best they can, and I send my personal thanks to them for their unstinting efforts on WONCA’s behalf.

The May Executive meeting, when members of Executive were to meet for two days in Belfast, has also fallen victim to the pandemic. Instead, Executive will meet virtually, over the same two days (14th and 15th May) to discuss and debate the various issues. It will be challenging for all of us, but we will give it our best shot.

WONCA Webinars

As most of you will be aware, many WONCA conferences have had to be postponed or cancelled. However in an effort to unite the WONCA communities across the globe we have organised a series of WONCA webinars on a variety of topics, to be held each Sunday at 1300 GMT. Webinars can be accessed via Zoom, but are also streamed on Facebook, and participation so far has been astounding.

The programmes as devised to date, and most often with direct contributions from WHO colleagues, includes:

- Sunday 12th April – President, President elect and region presidents discussing the global situation.

- Sunday 19th April – Mental health issues relating to the pandemic

- Sunday 26th April – Adapting medical education during a pandemic

- Sunday 3rd May – Family violence issues in a pandemic

- Sunday 10th May – PHC-UHC
- Sunday 17th May – Rural issues (Note time will be 1000GMT)
- Sunday 24th May – Quality and Safety issues

As well as live participation, members can also access the webinars through YouTube and Youku.

WONCA YouTube channel

WONCA Youku channel

COVID-19 Resources

With the COVID-19 pandemic there has been an inevitable plethora of information about the condition, with blogs, websites and many other information sources – what some have referred to as a “covidemic” or “infodemic”. We have been concerned abut the reputability and accuracy of some of the information being circulated, and so we have created our own WONCA webpage where we have aimed to provide a series of articles, from reputable sources, relevant to family doctors about COVID-19. Through this we have provided links to WHO (including the WHO EPI-WIN site) and other trustworthy websites which contain valuable information for family doctors having to deal with COVID-19 cases.

WONCA COVID-19 resources
WONCA Conferences and Events

I wrote last month that the global COVID-19 pandemic had taken its toll on many WONCA conferences and events. Since then the WONCA Europe conference in Berlin (scheduled for late June) has also had to be postponed. A revised, and somewhat smaller, event has now been planned for 17th to 19th December, as a combined European Conference of Family Doctors and DEGAM National Conference. Further details can be accessed here.

For the moment at least, WONCA World in Abu Dhabi still going ahead. If there are any changes then we will post details on the WONCA website and circulate via the regular e-updates. Abu Dhabi may well extend the deadline for abstract submissions so please check their website.

Digital health accreditation

Finally, a brief word about Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital health and telemedicine, and the development of robust standards. As I mentioned earlier in the article, family doctors have very quickly had to adapt to new ways of consulting, including teleconference and AI. As these will have a significant impact on family medicine, we at WONCA decided that we need to take a strong lead on the development of standards for digital health. Our major concern was always that some other body would start the development but without any inputs from family doctors, thus rendering any standards dubious at best.

The President has provided more details of this pilot in his article for this month and a short article appears elsewhere in this WONCA News on “WONCA assessment of digital health” where you can read more on the background to this study. (more)

Until next month, stay safe everyone.

Dr Garth Manning