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The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have published a new guide on developing and implementing stronger occupational health and safety programs for health workers.
In a news release, the WHO said the agencies recommended programs at the national, sub-national and health facility levels – with all programs covering infectious, ergonomic, physical, chemical and psycho-social occupational hazards.
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The guide also details the roles that governments, employers, workers and occupational health services should play in protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of their health workers.
It also places an emphasis on continuous investment, training, monitoring and collaboration.
The WHO also noted that countries that have developed and implemented these kinds of programs have experienced reductions in work-related injuries, sickness-related absence and improvements in the work environment.
Two health workers talk (iStock)
In addition, work productivity has increased and there was increased retention of health workers.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues for the third year, burned-out health workers have left their jobs.
Amidst coronavirus surges, hospitals across the U.S. have struggled to meet the demand for critical care.
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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced in January that the Biden administration would award $103 million to help respond to critical staffing needs and burnout.
The funds would be distributed to 45 grantees through three programs, and were secured through the administration’s American Rescue Plan.
According to the WHO, more than one-in-three health facilities lack hygiene stations at the point of care and fewer than one-in-six countries had a national policy on a healthy and safe working environment in the health sector.
“COVID-19 has exposed the cost of this systemic lack of safeguards for the health, safety and wellbeing of health workers. In the first 18 months of the pandemic, about 115,500 health workers died from COVID-19,” James Campbell, the WHO Health Workforce Department director, said in a statement. “Sickness absence and exhaustion exacerbated pre-existing shortages of health workers and undermined the capacities of health systems to respond to the increased demand for care and prevention during the crisis.”
The guide, he added, provides recommendations on how to learn from this experience and better protect health workers.
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“Effective mechanisms should be put in place to ensure continuous collaboration between employers, managers and health workers, with the aim of protecting health and safety at work” Alette van Leur, ILO Sectoral Policies Department director, said. “Health workers, like all other workers, should enjoy their right to decent work, safe and healthy working environments and social protection for health care, sickness absence and occupational diseases and injuries.”