The World Health Organization (WHO) put the infection of healthcare workers (HCWs) in focus over the Easter weekend. Unfortunately, as WHO notes, “there are a limited number of publications and national situation reports that provide information on the number of HCW infections”.
Just 52 countries had made information available on the number of HCWs infected as at 8 April. Those 52 countries reported a total of 22,073 cases of HCW infections.
This number obviously under-represents the true global situation. It is also impossible to make any statistical projection from this limited data without knowing which countries it covers.
Country figures made available are for China with 1,688 HCWs out of 44,672 confirmed cases as at 27 February (i.e. 3.8%) and Italy, which on 10 April had 15,314 infections among HCWs, representing 11% of all infections.
For too long, production and global supply chains have been shaped by the profit interests of a few billionaires. Drastic changes must be made that prioritise people over profit in the production process.
HCWs play a critical role in the Covid-19 response and it is critically important to safeguard them against workplace hazards, especially as relates to new coronavirus disease. HCWs must be safe to save lives.
As the WHO states, “understanding infection in HCWs is critical to informing the specific IPC measures needed to protect HCWs from infection”. More countries need to gather adequate data and make it available.
HCWs have not been adequately protected across the world. In virtually all countries there are shortages of PPE and needed medical supplies. And HCWs are working long hours in this context of shortage. Fatigue and burnout with inadequate protection make them particularly vulnerable to infection.
Countries need to take action to address the PPE shortage, which PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli described as an emergency within the emergency of the pandemic, in a letter to Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General. They also have to put in place processes that go above and beyond the WHO recommended Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measure to enhance occupational safety and health, as well as increasing staffing levels.
The shortage of PPE has still not been adequately addressed, and governments must take drastic measures. One of the top priorities for all countries now, to slowdown HCWs infection and the general spread of the disease, is rapid increase in the production of PPE, requisitioning local factories if needed for such purpose.
For too long, production and global supply chains have been primarily shaped by the profit interests of a few billionaires and their corporations, and not the need of people. One of the key lessons to be learnt so far from the global emergency is the avoidable disastrous consequences that comes from putting profit over people. Drastic changes must be made that prioritise people over profit in the production process. Such changes must start now with massive production of PPE to curtail the spread of infection in HCWs - our “frontline soldiers against Covid-19”.