COVID-19: Adequate number of health workers, access to PPE critical to win battle —ILO

THE International Labour Organization (ILO) has stated that having adequate numbers of health workers will be critical to winning the battle against COVID-19.

Besides, the organization pointed out that access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), occupational safety and health protocols, adequate rest and recovery periods and other working conditions will determine how effectively health workers can treat patients.

Analysing the issue of critical factor in fighting pandemics, the ILO declared that even robust health systems can be severely tested by unexpected pressures such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ILO said of the 15 countries with the most confirmed reported COVID-19 cases to date, 14 of them have health employment data available in ILOSTAT.

The report said: “These data show that most of them (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States) have well above the global average of 174 employed in the health sector per 10,000 people. In Iran, only 99 employed work in the health sector per 10,000 people, while there is no data on employment in the health sector available for China.”

It added: “Having adequate numbers of health workers will be critical to winning the battle against COVID-19. But it is not the only issue. Access to personal protective equipment, occupational safety and health protocols, adequate rest and recovery periods and other working conditions will determine how effectively health workers can treat patients.”

The ILO pointed out that across the globe, added pressures could arise relating to the number of women working in healthcare; adding, “globally, women make up 70 per cent of those employed in the health sector and, based on data available for close to 100 countries, 72 per cent of skilled health occupations. In short, women are disproportionately on the front lines in the world’s struggle to treat infected patients.

Meanwhile, it pointed out that women also carry the burden of unpaid care work, such as child rearing and care for the elderly, adding therefore that “as schools close in regions affected by COVID-19, this creates additional challenges for many women health workers trying to balance work and family.”

It added: “As the COVID-19 pandemic puts the world’s health services under the microscope, ILOSTAT data shows that numerous countries already faced shortages of health workers – often due to the long hours, low pay and occupational safety and health risks.

which deter many from entering the health workforce in the first place and which make many qualified health workers leave the profession prematurely.

“To address the underlying reasons for these shortages, the ILO joined forces with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the joint Working for Health Programme in 2017.

“Based on improved health labour market data, multi-stakeholder involvement, and social dialogue, this programme helps countries and constituents develop strategies to scale up investments in their health workforces.”


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