Seriousness of health and care workers shortage known for last 20 years: WHO expert

Seriousness of health and care workers shortage known for last 20 years: WHO expert
Seriousness of health and care workers shortage known for last 20 years: WHO expert

Africa-Press – Kenya. The seriousness of the health and care workers shortage has been known for the last 20 years, an expert from the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

“We know what one needs to do in order to decrease that shortage, Rudiger Krech, the director of the health promotion department in WHO, told Anadolu.

The world health body recently projected a shortage of 10 million health and care workers by 2030 based on current trends with the “most acute shortages” will be in the poorest countries.

“WHO is ringing the alarm bell for quite a few years now that we’re facing serious shortages in health and care workers,” Krech said, stressing that this problem can be overcome with the support of member states.

Noting that the WHO has action plans ready for regional and global levels on how to address the shortage of healthcare workers, he said that despite all these efforts “countries do not actually take the necessary steps to mitigate that shortage enough.”

There is “a lot we can do” to keep people in the health system by organizing conditions for health care workers, the salaries and the sort of career paths, especially for nursing, he said.

World is in ‘turmoil’

“Today, we see that the world is in turmoil” like it was when the WHO was founded after World War II, Krech said.

The world is not only facing the coronavirus pandemic but at the same time it is facing a “huge” climate crisis, social crisis and war in the region, the WHO official said.

The WHO and every country need to look at how they can help people to better cope with this insecurity that is triggered by all these crises, he said.

Before the coronavirus, the world faced H5N1 (bird flu), H1N1 (swine flu) and in some regions, Zika (mosquito-borne viral disease) in this millennium and WHO undertook reviews of what went right and what went wrong, especially after the Ebola crisis, the expert said.

“We have received in WHO a lot of criticism after the Ebola crisis in 2015,” Krech said. “Much of that criticism was absolutely justified.”

“So, what we did after the Ebola crisis, we turned around every stone, meaning that we looked at all the processes that we have and to see what could we do and need to do better for the next pandemic,” he said.

“And that indeed has served a scenario in the response of COVID-19,” he added.

Many COVID deaths could have been averted

More than 762 million COVID-19 cases and over 6.89 million deaths have been reported in at least 192 countries and regions since December 2019, according to the WHO.

“We could have shortened the time of (COVID-19) crisis by a lot and we could have had much fewer deaths in the end” only if the countries did not “politicize” their pandemic response, Krech said.

Although the states showed “absolute solidarity” in the research and development of vaccines, the solidarity turned to “charity” when it came to the distribution of the jabs.

He said that once the vaccines were made available, the rich countries bought them in high numbers for their population group and the poor countries got them later.

“So, as we did not, unfortunately, react to this pandemic in a way that public health would do, but as a lot of member states politicized the pandemic, we created a lot more deaths than is necessary,” he said.

Krech said that the second big lesson for the health systems all over the world was people with chronic diseases like cancers, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases or diabetes did not receive the health care they should have during the pandemic, which resulted in mortality “much beyond” the concrete COVID cases.

“It’s not just resilient health systems that we need, but we need societies that are better able to cope with stress on the system with difficult situations,” he said. “That is something that I think as a world we need to learn better.”

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