The outbreak of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has put us through unprecedented and challenging times. The number of people affected with the disease has increased many folds. It is spreading to many more countries and a lot of people have already lost their lives. Thousands of people are fighting for their lives in hospitals at this stage.
During such unsettling times, demand for health care professionals has grown exponentially. The main challenge for many countries now is to deal with community transmission and treating a large number of people who are being tested positive with COVID-19.
Health workers are at the frontline and working dedicatedly round the clock to help control the situation.
Rights, roles and responsibilities of health workers
Health workers are considered to be at high-risk due to constant and continued exposure to COVID-19. Hazards like pathogen exposure, prolonged working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, stigma, etc. put them at the risk of infection and compromise their safety and health.
Rights of health workers
- They should have the necessary preventive and protective measures to minimize occupational hazards and health risks.
- They should be provided with the necessary information, instruction and training.
- They should have adequate personal protective equipment and supplies like masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, hand sanitizers, soap and water in sufficient quantities.
- They should have a conducive environment to report incidents as well as extend support to victims.
- Workers should be advised to check for symptoms, self-monitor and stay at home if they feel ill.
- They should be advised to maintain appropriate working hours with sufficient breaks.
- Workers should be allowed the right to remove themselves from the work environment that possesses a serious threat or danger to their life.
- Workers are entitled to the right to compensation, rehabilitation and curative services if infected with COVID-19 at their workplace.
- Co-operation between management and workers is important.
Measures to be taken by health workers:
- Follow established occupational safety and health procedures.
- Avoid putting others into any kind of health and safety risks.
- Participate in occupational safety and health training provided by the employer.
- Maintain protocols to assess and treat patients.
- Frequent information and feedback sessions should be attended.
- Establish public health reporting procedures of suspected, cured and confirmed cases.
- Always put on, use and dispose personal protective equipment properly.
- Self-assess and self-isolate in case of any noticeable symptoms.
- Report your illness to the manager.
- Advise management to ensure support and guidance for any health worker experiencing signs of stress.
- Report to the immediate supervisor if there is a health risk.
- Get adequate rest.
While health care workers often accept increased risk of infection, as part of their chosen profession, it is essential to address their needs and optimize their safety in the current situation.