Today, health workers at the front line of the COVID-19 outbreak response have the tendency to be exposed to different hazards that put them at risk. These occupational hazards include exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens, turmoil, harassment, stigma, discrimination, heavy workload and the prolonged use of personal protective equipment while working with patients(PPE).
Now more than ever, it’s essential for health policymakers and health care institutions to create and ensure stable infrastructures and adequate resources to support physicians, nurses, and care team members.
On the part of health workers, they must be out all necessary measures to protect themselves from both physical and mental harm.
Here are some ways healthcare institutions can ensure occupational safety for their healthcare workers
- Polls can be created and used to track healthcare workers’ stress levels, identify specific drivers of stress, and develop support groups based on these drivers.
- Organizations can create a systematic approach that would focus on them becoming resilient workplaces before times of crises and pandemics, rather than limiting their efforts to a focus on individual resilience.
- Ambulatory practice care models can be changed to telephonic and telemedicine to reduce office visits significantly. They can also consider splitting their offices into teams of staff and physicians and rotating the teams in/out of the office to reduce staffing in such a way that everyone isn’t in the same space every day.
- Set up a triage hotline to provide students/staff/faculty who have travelled or have symptoms of COVID-19 with real-time information on the protocol and next steps.
- Make sure healthcare workers and all members of the health care teams have access to appropriate behavioural, mental, primary, and specialty health care and addiction services
- Make sure that paid leaves and sick days remain unmoved for all employees for COVID-19 related illnesses.
- Ensure that personal protective equipment is made available for all health workers caring for COVID-19 patients.
Health care workers on the other hand can;
- Ensure they practice handwashing and maintain social distancing at home and work.
- Ensure they and everyone around them wear a cloth face mask when near other people.
- Ensure they adequately use the personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly.
- Ensure they follow all hospital or clinic protocols correctly.
- Ensure they don’t touch their face with their hands or gloves.
- Be Supportive of each other during this stressful time.
- Finally, healthcare workers must take councious care of themselves by ensuring they are very observant of changes or ailments in their health. A healthcare worker should ensure he/she has a PCR Swab Home kit on standby
Importance of the Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the equipment needed to protect health workers from getting infected with the coronavirus. Health workers must protect themselves when looking after COVID-19 patients and people who are suspected of having coronavirus infection and wearing a PPE is one of the ways.
Here are some effective PPE practices;
- Health workers doing COVID-19 screening in the community should ensure they keep a personal distance of at least 1 metre while wearing a medical mask.
- Ensure they have all of the following personal protective equipment (PPE) for close patient contact:
- A plastic apron or a non-sterile long-sleeved gown
- Sterile gloves
- A Medical mask
- Goggles or a face shield.
- Ensure that a well-fitting N95 respirator is available for health workers to perform aerosol-generating procedures or procedures that cause the patient to produce droplets.