With the beginning of this pandemic early this year, an additional stressful, traumatic, and exhausting work environment was what most of the health care workers faced. While putting themselves at the risk for infection, health care workers lead this battle against COVID-19 being at the forefront by caring for the patients who are infected with the virus. During this battle, many health care workers got infected by the virus and some others lost their life, without knowing that showing up to work would expose them to a virus that would kill them.
A study conducted by Amnesty International shows that at least 3,000 health care workers are known to have died after contracting COVID-19 in 79 countries around the world. It also says that in the United Kingdom more than 540 health and social care workers died due to this virus. The Guardian, in mid- July reported that it identified reports of 821 front-line health workers who died of COVID-19 in the United States. Euro News reported that nearly 500 health care workers died due to COVID-19 in Russia. According to the International Council of Nurses, more than 230,000 health care workers have contracted the Coronavirus and more than 600 nurses have died from it. As per the Indian Medical Association, as many as 99 doctors in India have died due to this virus. In many countries, adequate data is not available about the death rates among health workers due to COVID-19.
Overall, though it seems as numbers or statistics, for the health care system he/she might be a Doctor, Nurse, Carer, or other essential workers. S/he might have served the system for years and for well-being of patients and the community. Such a valuable health worker is lost due to this virus. As the virus is still present almost everywhere and infecting the people in a rapid phase, people are getting sicker and are depending on health care facilities for their treatment. Now the nature of our job; working in the environment surrounded by this contagious virus in addition to the known list, puts us at greater risk of catching this virus and hence more vulnerability for serious illness, or even death.
One hand we lost many health care workers life, on the other hand, many of them faced problems with a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), job loss and pay cuts, attack or warning for raising concerns, avoidance by community owing to stigma, or fear of spreading the disease. Literature shows that many health workers worked without proper PPE, reusing the masks (which are of high risk), using one PPE set in the same shift, and controlling the bowel and bladder just because one set of PPE given was given to them for one shift!. Amnesty International also says that a shortage of PPE for health and essential workers was reported in almost all 63 countries. In Pakistan, health care workers were beaten and arrested by police for protesting against the authorities for not providing adequate personal protective equipment (World socialist web site). The New York Times reported that numerous attacks and assaults were done on health workers in countries like India, the Philippines, and Mexico due to the stigma of spreading the virus. These incidences clearly state that governments instead of supporting health workers with adequate resources have failed to safeguard them.
With the existing challenge of shortage of health care workers (especially Nurses) across the globe in general and in western countries in specific, these incidents due to the Coronavirus will further cause lack of health workers and may force others to see another job or opt another way until and unless the Government could:
-Provide better annual packages
-Ensure better working conditions and dignity at the workplace
-Offer Non-Financial professional developmental support
-Maintain occupational hazards registry and dissemination of information
-Acknowledge the skills of nurses and create career pathways based on them
Every health care worker expects a favorable condition at the workplace. We go for work with love and dedication and put all our efforts to restore the well-being of the patient. Understandably health workers have professional obligations to care for their patients during a pandemic, but most of them have taken account of the patient’s well-being and a strong sense of caring more than professional obligations. It is agreeable that the virus has placed a tremendous load on the existing health care system and the government, but it’s unfair to neglect the health and safety of valued health workers, who are leading this battle.