World leaders are urging countries to prioritise the safety of frontline workers. FILE PHOTO Picture Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA)

Prioritise the safety of frontline workers, says WHO

Globally around 14% of Covid cases reported to the WHO are among health workers and in some countries it’s as much as 35%. It’s not just the risk of infection. Every day, health workers are exposed to stress, burnout, stigma, discrimination and even violence.”

CAPE TOWN –  As the world celebrated World Patient Safety Day world leaders urged countries to prioritise the safety of frontline workers.

World Patient Safety Day was celebrated last Thursday but the strong message of protecting frontline workers still echoes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in seven cases of Covid-19 reported is a health worker and in some countries that figure rises to one in three.

Addressing the media, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Globally around 14 percent of Covid cases reported to the WHO are among health workers and in some countries it’s as much as 35 percent.

“It’s not just the risk of infection. Every day, health workers are exposed to stress, burnout, stigma, discrimination and even violence,” he added.

According to the International Council of Nurses, a Geneva-based association, more than 1,000 nurses have died after contracting the virus. In South Africa, the number of health workers who have tested positive for Covid-19 stands at over 27,000.

Addressing a webinar on World Patient Safety Day on Thursday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said for months our health workers have waged an exhausting battle to do their utmost for their patients, to preserve their own physical and mental strength, and to keep their family members safe.

“Caring for patients has often involved critical life and death decisions – and supporting many patients whose lives ended without the comfort of loved ones at the bedside. The psychological burden of all these factors has weighed heavily on healthcare workers, in many cases undermining their mental health and causing occupational burnout,” he said.

Meanwhile, Guy Ryder, director-general of the U.N.’s International Labour Organization (ILO), said the WHO figures on infections among health workers were a “shocking testimony”.

“Patients’ safety requires guarantees of health worker safety as well – two sides of the same coin. Regrettably too often those guarantees are missing,” said Ryder.

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