Healthcare workers’ safety: a forgotten necessity

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms Fatina Munawar, a final year medical student at Quaid e Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur, Pakistan. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


While many humanitarians intend to seek welfare of humans, by policy-making or by speaking for their rights, particularly ensuring that fellow human beings get to work in accordance with the principles of ergonomics; many of them, tend to lose sight of the necessity of safety of healthcare workers; this occupation makes 59 million workers around the world susceptible to a variety of noxious circumstances, such as infectious agents e.g the ongoing pandemic of corona virus, chemicals, and so on, that may affect their physical, spiritual and psychological health adversely. (1)

Based on recommendations by ILO and WHO, healthcare workers are all those people who are related in one way or the other to hospitals, sanatoriums, daycare facilities and the personnel appointed for ambulatory medical services: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, accounts assistants, sweepers, to name a few. (2)

Some of the major threats to the well-being of healthcare personnel are biological agents; consequently, antiretroviral medication for post-exposure prophylaxis of healthcare staff, against HIV infection, has become a common place, beginning from the 1990s. (3) Post-exposure prophylaxis is also provided for a number of other infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B. Outbreaks are menacing constituents of the healthcare systems, especially due to the increased mobility of humans making the world a global village. Hence, healthcare systems should be well-prepared for the advent of any disease outbreak,  with compulsory evaluation and required workforce.(4) 

Additionally, experience of workplace violence has become extremely common particularly in low income countries: the situation of a healthcare facility in terms of its geographical location, qualification and training of faculty members, and  general attitude of the health workforce and the population being served, are key factors that can help predict the feasibility of vehemence and violence at a healthcare facility; ths leads to absenteeism and resignations of the staff. (5)

The provision of better healthcare can only be guaranteed by considering the presence, approachability, adequacy and calibre of the staff, as according to one of the calculations by WHO, the healthcare workforce would experience an attrition of 18 million healthcare workers by 2030. (6) Hence, the agenda of Universal Health Coverage is rendered to seem impossible, because low income, long duty hours, and the above mentioned hazards continue to discourage the healthcare workforce from putting efforts for the welfare of fellow human beings. Countries with low socioeconomic status are at a high risk of facing the speculated decrease. (7)

Furthermore, low-paid workers are often more susceptible to musculoskeletal insults due to abnormal positions that they have to assume while shifting patients; a feeling of helplessness and social stigma accompanies them. (8)

Hence, safety of health workers and the patients are inseparable components of planetary health. Research shows: most of the mishaps are brought about by doctors having irregular sleeping schedules and consecutive duties. (8) So, let’s help the healthcare workers help themselves, by alleviating their situation, such that they would truly work like saviours for patients.

References:

1- https://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/hcworkers/en/

2- https://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/hiv_tb_guidelines/en/

3- https://www.who.int/hiv/pub/prophylaxis/pep_guidelines/en/

4- https://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/manual_EVD/en/

5https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/activities/workplace/en/

6- https://www.who.int/whr/2006/en/

7- https://www.who.int/whr/2006/en/

8- https://scholar.google.com.pk/scholar?q=association+of+patient+safety+with+healthcare+workers+safety&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3DoFrGdd4RyJ4J

About the author

Fatina Munawar a final year medical student at Quaid e Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur, Pakistan. She is a member of QAMC-LC of IFMSA-Pakistan and currently working as the publications support division director of her LC; her major focus has been medical education during her term. She hopes to create awareness regarding health, environment and humanities through social media profile of her LC.

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