Mkhize calls on world leaders to prioritise safety of front-line healthcare workers
Johannesburg – Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has urged world leaders to prioritise the safety of frontline health workers in their respective countries.
Mkhize made the call while addressing a webinar on World Patient Safety Day on Thursday. The webinar was held under the theme ’’Health worker safety: a priority for patient safety with a call to speak up for health worker safety’’.
He said the theme was chosen because the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the significant challenges and risks health workers around the world are confronted with during the line duty.
“While the danger of infection is presently top of mind, many of you will know first-hand that health workers also face violence, stigma, and psychological and emotional stress.
’’Working under such pressure, with their health and even their lives at risk, makes health workers more prone to errors which can lead to patient harm,” Mkhize said.
He added that many countries need a sharper understanding of the factors contributing to patient harm and better insight into approaches that would enhance patient safety.
“I also welcome this commemoration as a moment to express our profound gratitude to our health workers for the risks that they have taken and continue to take as we navigate our way through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This disease has been a powerful reminder of a simple truth: there is no healthcare system without a capable and dedicated workforce. Our health workers are infinitely precious and, as a government, we asserted that their protection is non-negotiable.
“This means we need to reflect on our performance since March, eliminate our weaknesses and expand our most successful practices,” Mkhize said.
He highlighted that since the Covid-19 pandemic reached South Africa, there were 32 429 confirmed cases of healthcare workers that have been infected with Covid-19 as of September 11. Up to 257 health workers succumbed to the infection.
The WHO has estimated that healthcare workers account for 10% of the global cumulative cases identified.
“World Patient Safety Day is a fitting opportunity to launch this strategy which seeks to protect both the physical and mental health of front-line health workers and acknowledges their need for social support: The strategy aims to protect the physical health of health workers through prevention and mitigation of Covid-19 infections by providing a safe physical environment.
“It also seeks to promote the mental health of health workers through psychological support and to provide necessary social support.
’’It focuses on educating and training health workers to manage Covid-19 cases and implement occupational health and safety protocols," Mkhize said.