WHO suggests ways to improve safety of health workers, patients

By Hassan Zaggi

Concern by the threats to the health and safety of health workers and patients, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has suggested five ways to tackle the challenge.

It has, therefore, called on governments and leaders of health care to ensure that health workers are safe so that they can perform their duties optimally.

In a statement on Thursday, the WHO identified the five ways to include establishing synergies between health worker safety and patient safety policies and strategies; develop and implement national programmes for occupational health and safety of health workers; protect health workers from violence in the workplace; improve mental health and psychological well-being and protect health workers from physical and biological hazards.

The statement quoted the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to have said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives.

“No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe. WHO’s Health Worker Safety Charter is a step towards ensuring that health workers have the safe working conditions, the training, the pay and the respect they deserve.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, the world health body said, has also highlighted the extent to which protecting health workers is key to ensuring a functioning health system and a functioning society.

“The Charter, released today for World Patient Safety Day, calls on governments and those running health services at local levels to take five actions to better protect health workers.

“These include steps to protect health workers from violence; to improve their mental health; to protect them from physical and biological hazards; to advance national programmes for health worker safety, and to connect health worker safety policies to existing patient safety policies,” the statement said.

While lamenting that the COVID-19 has infected thousands of health workers leading to loss of many lives across the world, the WHO regretted that, in addition to physical risks, the pandemic has placed extraordinary levels of psychological stress on health workers exposed to high-demand settings for long hours, living in constant fear of disease exposure while separated from family and facing social stigmatization.

“Before COVID-19 hit, medical professionals were already at higher risk of suicide in all parts of the world.

“A recent review of health care professionals found one in four reported depression and anxiety, and one in three suffered insomnia during COVID-19,” the statement revealed.

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