By ensuring the safety of health workers can the safety of patients be guaranteed says WHO

WHO says that only by ensuring the safety of health workers can the safety of patients be guaranteed

The World Health Organization (WHO) calls on governments and health leaders to address the long-term health and safety threats that health workers and patients face.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros said on Health Workers Safety: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us all that health workers play a vital role in alleviating suffering and saving lives.

 If any country, hospital or clinic cannot guarantee the safety of health workers cannot guarantee the safety of patients. The WHO’s “Safety Contract for Health Workers” has taken an important step towards ensuring that health workers receive safe working conditions, training, salaries and due respect.”


The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of protecting health workers to ensure the health system and society function properly.


The contract issued today on World Patient Safety Day calls on the government and local health service agencies to take five actions to better protect health workers. 

These measures include protecting health workers from violence, improving mental health, protecting them from physical and biological hazards, advancing the national plan for health worker safety and linking health worker safety policies with existing patient safety policies.


Reports of infections, diseases, and attacks on anti-epidemic health workers are increasing

COVID-19 exposes health workers and their families to unprecedented risks. 

Although not representative, data from many countries in WHO regions show that the proportion of COVID-19 infections among health workers is much higher than that of the general population.


Although health workers account for less than 3% of the total population in most countries and less than 2% in almost all low- and middle-income countries, about 14% of COVID-19 cases reported to the WHO For health workers. In some countries, this ratio may be as high as 35%. 

However, data availability and quality are limited, and it is impossible to determine whether health workers were infected in the workplace or in the community environment. 

Thousands of health workers infected with COVID-19 in the world have lost their lives.


By ensuring the safety of health workers can the safety of patients be guaranteed says WHO

In addition to physical risks, the pandemic has also brought tremendous psychological pressure to health workers who have been exposed to high-demand environments for a long time.

 They are always worried about disease exposure when they are far away from their families and facing social stigma. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the risk of suicide for medical workers around the world was already high.

 A recent survey of medical staff found that one in four reported suffering from depression and anxiety, and one third had insomnia during the COVID-19 epidemic.

 The WHO recently emphasized that after the outbreak of COVID-19, reports of verbal harassment, discrimination and physical violence against health workers have risen alarmingly.


5 steps to improve health worker safety and patient safety

The WHO reminded on World Patient Safety Day that governments have legal and moral responsibilities to ensure the health, safety and well-being of health workers. 

The organization’s health worker contract calls on all Member States and relevant stakeholders to take measures:


Achieve synergy between health worker safety and patient safety policies and strategies:

  • Establish links between occupational health and safety, patient safety, quality improvement, and infection prevention and control programs.
  • Incorporate health and safety skills in personal and patient safety into the education and training programs of health workers at all levels.
  • Incorporate health worker and patient safety requirements into health care licensing and certification standards.
  • Integrate employee safety and patient safety incident reporting and learning systems.
  • Develop comprehensive indicators for patient safety, health worker safety, and health care quality, and integrate them with health information systems.
  • Formulate and implement national plans for occupational health and safety of health workers.

  • According to the national occupational health and safety policy, formulate and implement the national plan for occupational health of health workers.
  • When necessary, review and update national occupational health and safety regulations and laws to ensure that the health and work safety of all health workers are protected by regulations.
  • Appoint officials responsible for occupational health and safety of health workers at the national and institutional levels.
  • Formulate occupational health and safety standards, guidelines and codes of conduct.
  • Strengthen inter-departmental cooperation on health workers and patient safety, and have appropriate staff and management representatives, including gender, diversity, and various professional groups.
  • Protect health workers from workplace violence
  • Approve and implement relevant policies and mechanisms in accordance with national laws to prevent and eliminate violence in the health sector.
  • Promote a culture of zero tolerance for violence against health workers
  • Review labor laws and other regulations, and adopt special regulations as appropriate to prevent violence against health workers.
  • Ensure that policies and regulations are effectively implemented, prevent violence and protect health workers.
  • Establish relevant enforcement mechanisms (such as inspectors and helplines) to enable health workers facing violence to report and support them freely and confidentially.
  • Improve mental and mental health
  • Develop policies to ensure proper and fair deployment time, working hours, and rest periods, and to minimize the administrative burden on health workers.
  • Establish and maintain appropriate and safe staffing levels in medical and health institutions.
  • Provide insurance for work-related risks, especially those working in high-risk areas.
  • Establish a "no-fault" and fair work culture through open communication, including establishing legal and administrative protection measures to avoid being punished for reporting adverse safety incidents.
  • Provide mental health and social support services for health workers, including advice on maintaining work-life balance and risk assessment and mitigation.
  • Protect health workers from physical and biological hazards
  • Ensure that minimum patient safety, infection prevention and control, and occupational safety standards are implemented in all health care facilities throughout the health system.
  • Ensure that personal protective equipment related to the roles and tasks performed is always provided, in sufficient quantity, appropriate and acceptable in quality. Ensure that there is a sufficient buffer stock of personal protective equipment locally. Ensure proper training in the proper use of personal protective equipment and safety precautions.
  • Ensure that all health care institutions provide adequate environmental services, such as water, sanitation and personal hygiene, disinfection and adequate ventilation.
  • According to the national planned immunization policy, it is ensured that all health workers at risk are vaccinated, and all vaccines such as hepatitis B and seasonal influenza can prevent infection, and in emergency situations, it is ensured that health workers are given priority to obtain the latest licensed vaccines available.
  • Provide sufficient resources to prevent health workers from injury and harmful exposure to chemicals and radiation; provide functional and ergonomically designed equipment and workstations to minimize musculoskeletal injuries and falls.

In addition to the Health Worker Safety Pact, WHO also outlined specific goals for World Patient Safety Day 2020 for health care leaders to invest in, measure and improve the safety of health workers in the coming year. These goals are designed to enable health care institutions to address five issues: 

  • Preventing sharps injuries
  • Reducing work-related stress and burnout
  • Improving the use of personal protective equipment
  • Promoting zero tolerance for violence against health workers, and reporting And analyze serious incidents in security.

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