Governments not ‘prioritising nurses’ as COVID-19 death toll surpasses 1,000

Ten percent of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world are amongst nurses and other healthcare workers

Matt Bodell
16 September 2020
Nurse upset with Coffee

Half of countries do not classify COVID-19 as an occupational risk.

A new report published today reveals that more 1,000 registered nurses had died with Coronavirus across 44 countries.

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The nine-page document from the International Council of Nurses (ICN), combined the responses of national nursing associations between 30 July and 14 August 2020. The ICN says its findings show that governments across the world are failing to prioritise nurses and other healthcare workers during the pandemic.

On average, the report reveals, 10% of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world are amongst nurses and other healthcare workers. This suggests that with almost 30 million people infected with the virus, as many as three million may be health workers.

Despite this, the report reveals, half of the countries surveyed do not classify COVID-19 as an occupational risk.

The ICN also highlights that healthcare worker deaths are still not being centrally recorded – meaning the total number is likely significantly higher.

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Over half of associations also reported incidents of violence against frontline health workers due to COVID-19

Putting staff at risk puts patients at risk.

The ICN has now called on governments to address their “collective failure to prioritise health workers” across the board, including lack of data collection on infection rates and inadequate PPE, particularly in care homes, as well as inadequate testing and IPC training, plus extensive reports of violence and discrimination against nurses, and a lack of mental health support.

ICN CEO Howard Catton said, “The report’s findings add to a growing list of failures by governments to act to protect nurses and other health workers during the pandemic.

“By not collecting data on deaths and infections or recognising COVID-19 as an occupational disease, governments are effectively looking the other way.

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“The consequence is that staff are left without equipment, training, testing, mental health or financial support. Make no mistake: by putting staff at risk governments are also putting patients at risk.

“This ICN COVID-19 report coincides later this week with World Patient Safety Day which will shine further light on health workforce safety. The simple and undeniable truth is that health workforce safety and patient safety are two sides of the same coin, you cannot have one without the other.”

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