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The COVID-19 pandemic: another test of resilience for frontline health workers

We believe that protecting health workers is at the core of any country's effective response to the epidemic, so we have requested Dr. Akan Otu, Infectious Disease/Public Health Specialist in the United Kingdom to share his perspectives on this issue.

What started as an outbreak in Wuhan City of China in December 2019 has now spread across the globe with alarming rapidity. The novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic on March 11th 2020. As at 5th April 2020, there was a total of 1,204,246 confirmed and 64,795 deaths from COVID-19 disease. Looking ahead to the future weeks and months the prospects are frightening. As the health system becomes inundated with patients, the resources needed to protect healthcare workers from infection will become increasingly scarce. It is known that continuous exposure to large numbers of infected patients directly increases the risk of infection for healthcare workers. Also, pressure of work and lack of rest indirectly increases the probability of infection. Poor knowledge of infection control and a dearth of personal protective equipment (PPE) are problems that have been reported in healthcare systems across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the weeks and months ahead, front line health workers will be required to rise above their fears and provide quality care to persons infected with COVID-19 in resource-constrained settings. It is important for health workers to adopt the strategies that have been proposed by the World Health Organization to maintain occupational health and safety namely:

  • Learning to use and dispose of PPE properly.

  • Using approved protocols to assess, triage, and treat suspected/confirmed COVID-19 patients.

  • Self-monitoring for signs of illness, self-isolating and reporting illness to managers, if it occurs.

  • Identifying early signs of undue stress/burnout and seeking help.

The failure to take action and protect the healthcare workforce will have untoward consequences for humanity. 

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