A health worker collecting coronavirus samples in New Delhi on Sept. 16. Photo: Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Though health workers represent less than 3% of the population in many countries, they account for around 14% coronavirus cases reported to the World Health Organization, the organization announced Thursday.
Why it matters: The WHO called on governments and health care leaders to address threats facing the health and safety of these workers, adding that the pandemic has highlighted how protecting them is needed to ensure a functioning health care system.
What they're saying: “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said.
- “No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe. WHO’s Health Worker Safety Charter is a step towards ensuring that health workers have the safe working conditions, the training, the pay and the respect they deserve.”
Yes, but: The organization said it is unable to determine if health workers were infected in the work place or in community settings.
The big picture: On top of the physical risks associated with the virus, the WHO warned that health workers have experienced "extraordinary levels of psychological stress" because of living in fear of exposure, high-demand work settings and being away from family for long hours.
- Even before the pandemic in late 2019, around half of the doctors and nurses in the U.S. reported experiencing substantial symptoms of burnout.
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