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WHO Calls For Key Actions In Universal Health Coverage, Protection Of Health Professionals From COVID-19 Infection

COVID-19 Depiction via Hamilton Medical

Posted: September 25, 2020 at 8:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Protecting Health Professionals From COVID-19

With much of the world continuing to struggle with dealing with COVID-19 (Coronavirus 2019), health professionals on the front lines of combating the virus remain under threat as they attempt to curve the harm COVID can do in communities throughout the world.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and safe lives,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus in a memo released to select journalists. “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 the conditions, the training, the pay, and the respect they deserve,” he continued.

The World Patient Safety Day charter outlines five actions governments and those running health service facilities can take to better protect health workers, especially during times of great need.

These actions include steps to protect health workers from violence; to improve their mental health; to protect them from physical and biological hazards; to advance national programs for health worker safety; and to connect health worker safety policies to existing patient safety policies.

The memo would go on to detail a staggering statistic regarding health professionals battling COVID-19. “While health workers represent less than 3% of the population in the large majority of countries and less than 2% in almost all low- and middle-income countries, around 14% of COVID-19 cases reported to WHO are among health workers. In some countries, the proportion can be as high as 35%.”

The memo does caution that it is unsure of the percentage of health workers that were infected at work or in community settings.

However, the data is strong regarding the psychological stress health professionals face during the COVID-19 pandemic. One in four professionals has reported experiencing anxiety and depression, while one in three suffers from insomnia. 

Health professionals have also suffered an alarming rise in verbal harassment, discrimination, and physical violence during COVID-19. Some incidents of abuse are directly linked to the ‘infodemic‘ surrounding the pandemic.

The five steps WHO recommends to improve health worker and patient safety during the pandemic follow:

  • Establish synergies between health worker safety and patient safety policies and strategies
  • Develop and implement national programs for occupational health and safety of health workers
  • Protect health workers from violence in the workplace
  • Improve mental and psychological well-being
  • Protect health workers from physical and biological hazards

WHO And UNICEF Call For Global Increase To Those Covered By Universal Health Coverage

WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently signed a new agreement to help accelerate public health efforts to help protect marginalized and vulnerable populations. The ‘Strategic Collaboration Framework’ calls for immediate actions regarding the following, “universal health coverage, through a primary health care and health systems approach; mental health and psychosocial wellbeing and development; public health emergencies; and maternal and child nutrition.”

Currently, the United States is the only first-world nation without a Universal Healthcare system in place. Neither of the major parties candidates for President of the United States favors implementing such a system, despite its popularity or effectiveness. Former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) nor President Donald Trump (R-NY) acknowledge the positive results Universal Healthcare has produced across the world.

The memo would go on to detail the WHO goal of being to ensure a billion further people have universal health coverage by the end of 2023. The population of the United States is approximately 331 million, and the policy being enacted within the country would go a long way in seeing WHO achieves its goal, however, it does not look like a ‘Medicare For All’ bill will pace in the country during that timeframe.

The financial and physical trauma caused by COVID-19 in the United States has left COVID patients with catastrophic medical bills. Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times reported on one of the more staggering cases in June.

“…First, there was one for $31,165. Unable to work and finding it difficult to walk, Ms. Mendez decided to put the bill out of her mind and focus on her recovery,” his report begins. “The next one was impossible to ignore: an invoice for $401,885.57, although it noted that the hospital would reduce the bill by $326,851.63 as a “financial assistance benefit.” But that still left a tab of more than $75,000.”

Another patient in Seattle, Washington was saddled with a COVID-19 medical bill of approximately $1.1 million after his recovery. Under a Universal Healthcare system, out of pocket costs for medical treatment would be next to non-existent for non-cosmetic procedures. 

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