By Michael Oche,
The African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has said there is an urgent need for genuine and steady social investment on public healthcare delivery provisions by African heads of government
The regional body made the declaration as it urged its 110 affiliates in 52 of the 54 African countries to join the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other local, national and international stakeholders to commemorate this year’s World Patient Safety Day (WPSD) slated for 17 September 2020.
This year’s celebration is targeted at raising global awareness about the importance of health worker safety and its interlinkages with patient safety
In a letter sent out to her affiliates, ITUC-Africa General Secretary, Comrade Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, stated that the theme of this year’s commemoration, which is. “Health Workers Safety: Priority for Patient Safety” is a fitting and timely one.
He said this is more so as this year’s event will be dedicated to the gallant healthcare workers who he described as the heroes and heroines of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
He said, “In Africa, hundreds of healthcare workers and other essential services workers have contracted the virus and scores have succumbed to the virus. This commemoration is another occasion to appreciate and celebrate their services, sacrifices, heroics and dedication to saving lives whilst putting themselves in harms’ way.”
According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic has further confirmed to us that healthy and well-motivated health workers are critical to patients’ safety.
Also commenting on the significance of the celebration, comrade Akhator Joel Odigie, the Deputy General Secretary of the ITUC-Africa enthused that “we have seen and continue to see the tireless efforts that health workers are investing in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These efforts are responsible for the huge number of recovered cases of patients infected with the virus. We have also witnessed the selfless advocacy of health workers and their trade union organisations calling for the urgent and broad improvement in healthcare delivery systems and management so that more persons, especially indigent ones can have better and easier access to healthcare. Therefore, we must all stand up for the safety of health workers since we know that it in our self-enlightened interest to do so”.
Speaking on the need for genuine, urgent and steady social investment on public healthcare delivery provisions, comrade Akhator Joel Odigie opined that “since health is wealth, it is, therefore, an economic sense to consciously invest in the training, wellbeing and motivation of health workers who make it possible for people to be and stay healthy and to be able to contribute to economic production activities”.
“As we continue to fight against COVID-19 and planning our recovery strategies, the public healthcare sector must be a top priority and healthcare workers must enjoy rich consideration. This is because we have noticed that working in stressful environments makes health workers more prone to errors which can lead to patient harm. The many indigent persons who are unable to access and enjoy affordable healthcare, especially those excluded by privatisation arrangements are more exposed to harm and must be protected in line with the prescriptions of the health workers and their trade unions. The unions are calling for a better planned public healthcare system with adequate infrastructure and facilities. Public health is a human right and must be respected and guaranteed”.
Still, on the need for conscious investment to revamp and boost public healthcare delivery in Nigeria and Africa, Mr Ehi Iden, an Occupational, Safety and Health practitioner hinted that “there is urgent need to take this matter seriously and give it the right and steady attention it deserves. This is because COVID-19 has shown that our entire socio-economic systems depend on a solid and well-functioning public health care system. Indeed, a global healthcare and public health management will henceforth need global coordination and whole-society-approach in the governance”.
Meanwhile, the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) as part of this year’s celebration says it is collaborating with other stakeholders to mark the event.
The union leadership noted that COVID-19, sadly, woke the world to the realisation of the centrality of public healthcare to the survival of humanity.
Therefore, on the occasion of this commemoration, the union and her other sister unions in the health sector urged Nigerians and the government to begin the process of broad stakeholder consultations that will include healthcare workers on how to achieve a robust public healthcare delivery arrangement.