COVID-19 Has Highlighted Vulnerabilities Of Workers In The Healthcare Industry
Edward Kelly, director of Integrated Health Services at the World Health Organization

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted access to basic healthcare services, but has also exposed the vulnerabilities the people working in the health care industry.

“About 14% of all infections reported to us are in healthcare workers, I think that’s… put the spotlight on the need for reforming [the healthcare system] and supporting health workers in all aspects,” said Edward Kelly, director of Integrated Health Services at the World Health Organization. “We’re not just talking about care providers, but also [everyone from] the people who clean the rooms, the people who work in the communities as outreach workers.”

The pandemic has also not only impacted healthcare industry workers in terms of infection rates, but “mental health” and “stress’ as well, added Kelly.

He also acknowledged that about half of all health services around the world were interrupted by the pandemic at some point.

“That’s everything from… dental services and rehab services down to acute emergency services,” said Kelly. “All countries right now are figuring out ways to make this work.”

Kelly’s comment’s come just a day after a new report by the Partnership for Evidence-Based COVID-19 Response highlighted the need to ensure protections for healthcare workers, and increase access to healthcare services in Africa.

According to a survey of more than 24,000 adults across 18 African Union states, some 44% of those who had required health care during the pandemic reported skipping or delaying seeking care. Of those that needed medicines, some 45% have reported facing more barriers in obtaining necessary drugs.

“As in past outbreaks, we are seeing a high cost from missed and delayed health care,” said Dr Zabulon Yoti, acting regional director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Cluster at the World Health Organization, in a press release. “Even routine check-ups are critical for screening and treating people for both communicable and noncommunicable diseases. We must protect access to health care by making sure that facilities are equipped to handle COVID-19 infections, and that health workers are protected.”

Additionally, reports of lack of resources and lax protocols in some hospitals have left health industry workers at risk of infection by the virus.

According to the report, there were 288 reported health care worker protests across Africa between March and August 2020 related to COVID-19 working conditions. Most of the protests were focused around demanding proper compensation and personal protective equipment for those working in healthcare facilities.

Despite some difficulties the continent has faced, self-reported adherence to mask wearing, handwashing, and physical distancing has remained high across Africa.


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