Investing in Health Workers Welfare for Quality Healthcare

“A functional gear wheel depends on all the cogs. Our health systems are no different. We need safe and empowered health workers for quality healthcare.”

Health is a basic human right. This means that we should all be able to access the healthcare services when and where we need them without suffering any constraints. This is the basis of quality healthcare. Unfortunately, this still remains a pipe dream in most countries globally. For countries making advances, the disparities still exist yet we know we can do better.

On 17th September we marked World Patient Safety Day 2020, the second official commemoration and this year the focus was on the healthcare worker. I am passionate about access to healthcare and by all means I strive to make it accessible to anyone and everyone. This is the basis of my work with the different organizations I work with and support. I hope it comes to be for all.

Today I facilitated our Health Round Up discussion on the same subject. You can find the recording here. Beyond calls for health workers safety we need to take responsibility and ask ourselves what we can do to make our health systems better by investing in our health workforce. It’s a worrying trend when we have health workers shortages yet the few available aren’t protected as well. It’s stressful and challenging on all accounts.

Over the period we’ve witnessed exposure of health workers to COVID-19 due to shortages and poor quality in personal protective equipment (PPE), some have been beaten by patients and relatives in the line of duty with impunity. It’s time to acknowledge that medical practice is a profession like any other with need for occupational health and safety measures to be upheld. Additionally, health workers are also human beings. They have feelings, needs and responsibilities beyond care for patients which they must attend to. When we put these into perspective it is easier to factor the needs of healthcare workers in the overall investment.

In marking World Patient Safety Day 2020, the WHO launched the Health Worker Safety Charter which outlines the five (5) steps to; protect health workers from violence, improve their mental health, protect them from physical and biological hazards, advance national programmes for health worker safety and connect health worker safety policies to existing patient safety policies. This is a critical step in the right direction towards strengthening health systems.

This last week we’ve been fed with information on the mother who gave birth in front of Pumwani Maternity Hospital. The clip have raised debates over the state of healthcare but unfortunately there aren’t people taking responsibility for the turn of events. I’m critical of the role we all have to play in making our health systems and societies better. How could one have the audacity to record a mother in labour instead of thinking of ways to help her? Didn’t the hospital have a continuity plan in case of such chaos to cover for emergency needs? If we let people we exist to serve suffer because of our partisan agenda does it serve our purpose really?

It’s high time as individuals we worked on making our health systems better and empower health workers (all individuals working in a health setting including security guards, cleaners and cooks among others). Health workers should feel safe to make decisions in the moment considering the impact of failing to act. This is one critical component of High Reliability Organizations (HRO). Beyond making decisions in the moment, they should be heard to contribute in pertinent matters that affect quality of care beyond which includes reporting of errors and challenges faced in care. If these aren’t catered for then there’s no room for improvement.

Finally, in addressing the criticism against the facility, we had the women representative state that the nurses in the facility were scared of being beaten by the crowds that were outside. I can’t determine the validity of the same but as a society this is a question we need to ask ourselves. We go to hospitals to seek care because we trust them to serve our interests. How do we get to make them scared of us to a point they can’t get close to where we need them out of fear of our speculated actions? We need to go back to the drawing board.

I feel the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) have acted right by acknowledging their shortfalls, apologizing for the errors and outlining some measures they plan to implement so that such don’t happen again. It’s my hope they go by their word for the betterment of our health systems. Otherwise it’ll be a lost battle.

“We have a responsibility in making our health systems better. It starts from empowering the people mandated to take care of us to do it well and supporting them in the course of it. It’s an awakening. Let’s know better, do better and be better for better quality healthcare.”

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