Health care is a measure of human development. When we analyse the health situation in the Arab countries, it soon becomes clear that there are obstacles to obtaining quality healthcare for all. Those most in need of health services, the poor and disabled, do not receive the essential care they deserve.
There is added pressure due to the spread of chronic diseases, the increased cost of new treatments and the growing demand by the public for access to high quality healthcare.
Government agencies in charge of health need to find effective ways to improve opportunities and service efficiency in the health services. Unfortunately, the approach mostly taken to address the problem, focused on improving financial resources and reducing costs as a priority, have targeted workers. Salary cuts, increase of working hours and informalisation of labour relations are fast becoming the norm.
But the importance of decent work in the health sector, based on collaborative relations between workers and the administration, is vital. By following a policy of partnership, social dialogue and cooperation between health administrations and health workers, within the framework of decent work agenda which promotes social and legal protection for the workers; better working conditions, and a safe working environment, the quality of healthcare services can be immensely improved.
If workers are oppressed and made to work in unfavourable conditions, healthcare delivery will be severely stunted. The therapeutic and affective nature of healthcare requires a health workforce that is adequate and in harmony with the capacity to deliver services. This is why decent work is of utmost importance. And so is the need for continuing professional development fully supported by the employers, ensuring the qualitative development of the workforce as well.
Due respect for workers and trade union rights by governments in the region is thus much needed now for concerted efforts in working for health across all Arab countries.
by Dr Salameh Abu Zaaiter, President of the trade union of health services workers Gaza Palestine