How COVID-19 strained healthcare professionals, by report

A Comprehensive report from World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) and World Health Organisation (WHO), published yesterday, has revealed the extent of physical and psychological damage done to healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 ...
Vaccination against COVID-19 CREDIT:

[FILE] Vaccination against COVID-19 CREDIT:

Enabulele urges early preparation for next pandemic

A Comprehensive report from World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) and World Health Organisation (WHO), published yesterday, has revealed the extent of physical and psychological damage done to healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic because the health systems they worked in failed to protect them.
It collated impact of the epidemic from the WHPA’s five members – FDI World Dental Federation, International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), International Council of Nurses (ICN), World Physiotherapy and World Medical Association (WMA) – which in total represent 41 million healthcare professionals.

The report, ‘What the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed: the findings of five global health workforce professions’, observed that healthcare workers feared for their personal safety during the pandemic because of a lack of protective equipment and absence of any systematic support, with security leaving many to feel undervalued.

WMA President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, said: “Many physicians are exhausted and demoralised after taking risks and making sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Junior doctors are disillusioned and experiencing increased physical and mental burn out.
“It is vital we prepare now for the next pandemic. That involves strengthening health services around the world and increasing support for physicians and other health care personnel.”

WHPA Chair, Jonathon Kruger noted: “By pooling data from surveys of memberships conducted during the pandemic, the WHPA organisations have been able to put together a unique picture of what the pandemic looked like for health professionals on the ground. By identifying the challenges we have in common across professions, we can work together to resolve them.”

“The WHPA is also pleased to see the publication of this report as one of the first concrete outcomes of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed between members and WHO in November 2022, and looks forward to continuing the collaboration.”

ICN Chief Executive Officer, Howard Catton, who is a co-author of the report, acknowledged fellow authors Hoi Shan Fokeladeh and Erin Downey, advising that the report should be used by governments to influence plans for the next global health emergency and ensure that healthcare staff do not have to carry such a heavy and unfair burden in the future.

He said: “Around the world, prior underinvestment in health systems meant that they failed the health professionals and multidisciplinary teams that are the life blood, the very essence of our healthcare services.

“We know what needs to be done: the challenge is making it happen. A vital first step would be to have more health professionals in the most senior leadership positions to counter the current disconnect between decision makers and healthcare professionals on the front line.
“We need governments to honour the contribution of nurses and others during the pandemic, elevate them to positions where they can more directly influence healthcare policies, and make sure that they never again have to face a deadly pandemic without the care, support and protection that they deserve.”

The report said vaccination information and training need to be reviewed to address vaccination hesitancy and rejection. It also highlighted the lack of mental health and psychosocial support experienced by professional staff and the profound disruption that occurred to their education, with the closure of education centres, and postponement or cancellation of clinical placements.

The work urged concerted efforts to protect healthcare workers from the chronic violence that exists in healthcare settings, just as it suggested that they should have a greater say in high-level planning, strategy and decision-making.

The report concluded by calling for greater involvement of professionals in efforts to rebuild healthcare systems after the pandemic as part of a whole society response that would contribute to global preparedness and health security.

WHPA brings together the global organisations representing world’s dentists, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and physicians, and speaks for more than 41 million healthcare professionals in more than 130 countries. It works to improve global health and quality of patient care and facilitates collaboration among health professions and major stakeholders.

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