Health Care Workers’ Safety and Health as Assets in the Fight Against COVID-19 – – Health News Today

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Hanna Ms. Silmi Zahra, currently working a medical clerkship in Hasan Sadikin General Hospital, Padjadjaran University, Indonesia. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Health care workers (HCWs) are the “soldiers”, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by saving many patients. However, HCWs must be in a good health and use the adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).1 Front-line HCW has twelve times higher risk of being infected with COVID-19 compared to general community. (adjusted HR 11 · 61, 95% CI 10 · 93–12 · 33)2

In the early pandemic in China, many HCWs were infected with COVID-19 due to inadequate PPEs, improper effective personal protection application, long exposure to COVID-19 patients, long working hour and lack of training in the use of PPEs.3

For HCWs to work safely, the PPEs must be easily accessible, fit to the user, and proper in use and disposal. Infection prevention and control such as hand hygiene, equipment and environment decontamination, as well as screening are important. All HCWs must receive training and information related to occupational health and safety.4

WHO stated that early in the pandemic, the prices of surgical masks have increased six-fold, N95 masks have tripled and surgical gowns have doubled. Many countries experienced PPE limitations.5 Lack of PPEs for fighting the pandemic is one of the biggest threats, so that PPEs must be used effectively. For instance, to limit the use, N95 respirators must be preferred for high-risk HCWs than for public and low-risk HCWs. Other strategies could be; minimal use of PPEs to avoid too many wastes, and reusing PPEs such as N95 respirator after UVGI decontamination.6

Moreover, HCWs must be ensured free from COVID-19 on a regular basis. Weekly screening for HCWs and other risk groups using PCR is estimated to reduce transmission of COVID-19 by 25-33% compared with self-isolation.7

Long working-hour and high workload can cause fatigue, psychological stress, and poor mental health. Those affect health and quality of care provided by HCWs.8 Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) recommends shift-dividing, rotated (morning-afternoon-night), and provided at least 48 hours free for HCWs between shifts.9

For the mental health, several things must be considered. HCWs could be thanked as recognition. Managers must pay special attention to HCWs with black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and HCW juniors or HCWs who are inexperienced but have worked beyond the expected competence. Those experienced traumatic event should be actively monitored, especially who have higher risks of developing mental…