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Ensuring safety of health workers

Saturation of beds for COVID-19 patients in government and private hospitals in Assam when over 2500 new active cases

health workers

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  17 Sep 2020 1:56 AM GMT

Saturation of beds for COVID-19 patients in government and private hospitals in Assam when over 2500 new active cases are getting added everyday has sounded the alarm bell on the safety of health workers from virus infection. The theme of this year's World Patient Safety Day, which is observed on this day, "Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety" is a reminder for everyone in the prevailing pandemic situation that patients will be safe only when the health workers remain safe. It was on May 25, 2019 when the 72nd World Health Assembly recognised patient safety as a global health priority and endorsed observation of this day for global solidarity and concerted action by all countries and international partners to improve patient safety. Explaining the rationale behind this year's theme the World Health Organization (WHO) has said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the huge challenges and risks health workers are facing globally including health care associated infections, violence, stigma, psychological and emotional disturbances, illness and even death. Furthermore, working in stressful environments makes health workers more prone to errors which can lead to patient harm". The WHO, therefore, emphasizes the need for a safe working environment for health workers as a prerequisite for patient safety. The WHO describes health workers as "people whose job it is to improve the health of their communities" says they are critical to functioning of most health systems. In Assam over 1500 health workers have been infected by COVID-19 virus and this is also worrying for safety of patients suffering from COVID-19 virus infection. The state Health and Family Welfare Department has appointed 1000 staff nurse under the National Health Mission and 215 technicians for Intensive Care Units. However, there is no room for any complacency given the rate at which the community transmission of the COVID-19 virus infection is taking place. While health workers in the hospitals and COVID care centres are exposed to high risk of getting infected in treating the positive patients frontline health workers like the Accredited Social Health Activists are constantly exposed to the risk of infection when engaged in contact tracing, follow up and other healthcare related duties in the community. If they are not protected from the virus infection it will result in shortage of health workers and jeopardise the treatment and care of the COVID-19 and other patients. The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suit ensures the first line of protection of the health workers. But long hours in PPE suits with plastic covers without any break for eating, drinking, and urinating make them wear out. They soak in sweats in humid condition and feel dehydrated, dizzy while some also suffer from breathing difficulties and headache. Braving all such personal discomforts the healthcare workers have been displaying exemplary dedication as frontline COVID-19 warriors. Safety of the health workers engaged in treatment and cares of non-COVID-19 ailment are equally important. Hospitals overwhelmed with positive patients have already disrupted healthcare services the patients with other ailments. If these health workers are infected by COVID-19 then it will hit the treatment and care of patients suffering from other ailment and requiring emergency medical care and it will also result in fatalities in non-COVID-19 patients. The healthcare workers faced stigmatization in initial days of the pandemic. However, the state Government effectively dealt with the problem by issuing strong warnings against those indulging in such activities coupled with aggressive awareness drive against stigmatization. This has helped protecting the healthcare workers from unwarranted situation and reduced the feeling of insecurity among them as no fresh incident of stigmatizing them has been reported. For a state like Assam with limited healthcare infrastructure and limited number of health workers checking the rise in the pandemic curve is extremely important to reduce fatalities. The state government has sounded the alarm that if COVID-19 infection continues at the present rate then the situation will become critical. Health experts have been appealing to the people to treat face mask as the vaccine against COVID-19 virus till breakthrough is made in invention of the vaccines which are at different stages of trial. The only way the increasing burden of pandemic on the health workers is to strictly follow the safety protocols of wearing face mask, maintaining physical distance in the public and sanitizing the hands to stay protected from infection. Family members and relatives of patients should be conscious while taking patients to a hospital for treatment and keep remember all the time none of their action should pose any risk of infection to health workers. Popularizing the theme slogan of this global day- "Safe health workers, safe patients" is going to remain relevant for all the time even though a new theme of the day will be selected for raising awareness and promoting positive change around patient safety priority areas.

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