Washington, September 17, 2020 (PAHO) – The Pan American Health Organization announced the launch of a regional campaign to improve the safety of health workers, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign, which marks the celebration of World Patient Safety Day, highlights the importance of the safety of healthcare workers as a priority for patient safety.

“Today, as we observe World Patient Safety Day, I ask everyone to join the call to action to speak out for the safety of healthcare workers,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne.

“I call on our Member States and their partners to guarantee safe and decent working conditions for health workers, as well as access to personal protective equipment, training, and equal pay,” especially for women women who represent almost 75% of the health workforce and face additional burdens.

The goals of World Patient Safety Day are to enhance global understanding of patient safety, increase public participation in health care safety, and promote global actions to improve patient safety and reduce harm to patients. . Their motto is “Safe Health Workers, Safe Patients,” and the call to action is “Let’s speak out for the safety of health workers!”

PAHO is urging partners and countries to develop national and local campaigns based on the regional campaign, to support and observe the Day to be successful, and to take urgent action to recognize the safety of health personnel as a prerequisite for safety. of the patient and the quality of care.

The messages for health workers in the campaign include: Your own safety begins with you: Take care of your physical and psychological health; Protect your safety and that of the people you care for; Make sure you are trained and aware of infection prevention and control and implement appropriate measures; Proactively contribute to building and strengthening a culture of safety at work; Improve your knowledge, skills and competencies for health care safety; Know your rights and responsibilities and ask for a safe work environment and stable and decent employment conditions, including equal pay; Always report security risks, violence, harassment or threats to the authorities and promote and implement innovative security practices within your organization.

The World Health Organization produced a Health Worker Safety Charter as a step “towards ensuring that healthcare workers have the safe working conditions, training, pay and respect they deserve.”

The Charter, published today for World Patient Safety Day, calls on governments and those who run health services at the local level to take five steps to better protect health workers. These include measures to protect health workers from violence; to improve your mental health; protect them from physical and biological dangers; to advance national health worker safety programs, and to connect health worker safety policies with existing patient safety policies.

The pandemic has also highlighted the extent to which the protection of healthcare personnel is key to ensuring a functioning healthcare system and a functioning society. While health workers represent less than 3% of the population in most countries, around 14% of COVID-19 cases reported to WHO are among health workers. In some countries, the proportion can reach 35%. Thousands of healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 have lost their lives around the world.

In addition to the physical risks, the pandemic has placed extraordinary levels of psychological stress on workers, who are exposed to high-demand environments for long hours, living in constant fear of exposure to disease, while separated from their families and coping with social stigmatization. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers were at increased risk of suicide in all parts of the world. A recent review by healthcare professionals found that one in four reported depression and anxiety, and one in three suffered insomnia during the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO recently highlighted an alarming increase in reports of verbal harassment, discrimination and physical violence towards health workers in the wake of COVID-19.

Today, the Americas region reports around half of the world’s cases and deaths from COVID-19. The pandemic has caused loss of life, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable and those with underlying health conditions. In our Region, the 54 countries and territories have been affected, and they have responded by expanding and reorganizing their health centers and networks, and improving their capacity, especially for critical care.

“Health personnel and those who care for patients have been the cornerstone of this response. Many have risked their own lives to care for their patients. After months of operating in crisis mode, they are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and burnout. Many have been stigmatized and some have been physically harmed for reasons related to COVID-19, “said Dr. Etienne.

“Fortunately, we have also seen moving displays of appreciation, with communities and the media recognizing health workers as heroes on the front lines of this pandemic,” he added.

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