Govts must invest in health workers to defeat COVID-19 – Physicians

Enabling the health workforce in terms of protection and adequate remuneration are crucial in helping nations’ populations and in addressing the coronavirus pandemic. APPOLONIA ADEYEMI reports on why physicians believe this is the way to go

AS the COVID-19 pandemic persists in challenging global health services to the limit, further deepening existing manpower shortages, medical supply shortages, among other issues in the health sector, medical experts have called for greater investment in the health workforce and greater promotion of access to care by all. According to the experts, the call is to forestall the growing threat and barriers towards the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as proposed under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

The Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there are so many cracks and gaps in the foundation of health workforce in terms of the shortages. “To provide universal healthcare, we must be strategic in inclusion and be innovative right now. We must shore up the foundation we have now, equip, and educate the health workers. Tedros noted that health was at the core of every nation’s economic and social well-being, hence, the health workforce is a critical and essential human capital.”

“We now realise that we must go beyond applause for the health workers. We must enable them, we must protect the health workforce, emotionally and physically and mentally. We must remunerate and pay allowances to health workers because they are crucial in helping the population and in addressing the pandemic,” he avowed. Corroborating the above views during a keynote address presented at the 2nd webinar series of the Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA), the Director, Department of Health Workforce of the WHO, Mr. Jim Campbell lamented distractions in the attainment of UHC.

In his view, Campbell who spoke at the event entitled: “The Common- Wealth Health Workforce & COVID-19 Pandemic : Regional Perspectives on the Current Realities, Challenges and Future Projections,” said many health workers have been redeployed to the intensive care facilities, amongst others, resulting to the elasticity of the capacity being overstretched.” He said essential services have been reduced due to health workers re-deployment and infection. “We are also experiencing the reality of health workforce trauma, additional workload, managing stress, discrimination and stigma, etc.

Some rebel and strike around the condition of work, the opportunity to be protected at work and issues around personal protective equipment (PPE) and this is resulting into mortalities beyond levels experienced in other places. “We must invest in health workforce as part of the trillion and billions of dollars invested in the social-economic development around the world if we are to recover from COVID and maintain access to healthcare access to all,” he asserted. On his part, the President of CMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele said the impact of COVID-19 on the health workforce has been enormous. According to the CMA President, Commonwealth countries contribute about 15 per cent of the global figure of persons infected with Covid-19. “While we note there has been the varied impact of the pandemic on various aspects of the economy and aspect of life, the impact on the health workforce has been very tremendous with unfortunate morbidities and mortalities among healthcare workers. According to statistics from the WHO, COVID-19 related deaths among health workers are about 10 per cent of the global mortality due to the disease.

“In the Africa region, which has the worst health workforce crisis globally with only about three per cent global health workforce, a total of 46,206 health workers are report ed to be infected with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, September 2, 2020.” He said the situation was further worsened by the impact of the health workforce migration even during this COVID-19 on account of unmet expectations, poor motivation, poor adherence to infection prevention and control measures, and of course, guidelines. Despite the foregoing realities including non-existence of COVID-19 vaccine or drugs, healthcare workers are expected to remain combat soldiers in the war against the pandemic.

He said the objective of the webinar was therefore to unfold the varied experiences and perspectives of health workers from commonwealth countries and various regions as it concerns the health workforce, particularly, in terms of identifying current gaps and challenges and developing a consensus framework that will help identify gaps now and in the post COVID era with the overall aim of boosting current efforts at defeating COVID-19. While deeply appreciating the sacrifices of the health workforce in saving humanity from scourges such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Enabulele, led participants to observe a minute silence in honour of physicians and other healthcare workers who had passed on in the course of duty, particularly during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. On his part, the Prof, Rasaq Adebayo, who represented the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah called for enhanced funding to provide healthcare infrastructure, equipment and essential medications.

“We also need the voices of citizens, especially civil society organisations and the media. We should demand better funding, stewardship, supervision, capacity utilisation, and coordination of the health sector in Nigeria and other West African countries.” The webinar, which was attended by participants from over 54 countries also featured guests such as Prof. Ruth Kattumuri Senior Director, EYSD Directorate at the Commonwealth Secretariat), Dr. Miguel Jorge, President of the WMA as well as other speakers including Prof. Indika Karunathilake, President of Sri Lanka Medical Association who presented the Central Asia perspectives), Dr. Darren Dookeeram, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association who presented the Caribbean perspectives), Dr. David Strain, BMA Chair of the Members’ Relations Committee who presented the European perspectives), Dr. Thirunavukarasu Rajoo, Hon.General Secretary of Malaysian Medical Association who presented the South East Asia & Australia perspectives, Prof. Kathleen McCourt, President of Commonwealth Nurses & Midwives Federation who presented the perspectives of Nurses & Midwives), Pharm. Victoria Rutter, Executive Director of Commonwealth Pharmacists Association who presented the perspectives of Pharmacists, amongst others.


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