Prioritising and protecting healthcare workers is critical, wrote Edson Araujo, Senior Economist at the World Bank (WB), in a blog post on Tuesday. Araujo’s comments come as part of a blog series run by the WB as a response to the ongoing worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Araujo noted the need to protect healthcare workers, not only because they risk their own lives, but also because patients rely on them for their continued provision of healthcare services.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, the world is at risk of exhausting doctors and nurses at a time when it needs them most, Araujo said. He added that, as the pandemic sweeps the globe, healthcare workers are on the frontlines of the response, and are going above and beyond to keep health systems functioning.
Nurses are working where personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are dwindling, Araujo said. He added that Italian data revealed 20% of health sector workers had been infected with the coronavirus, and 14% in Spain, while in China over 3,300 were infected as of early March, Araujo mentioned.
The WB, in collaboration with the International Council of Nurses (ICN), Jhpiego (an international, non-profit health organisation), and the East Central and South African College of Nursing (ECSACON), analysed the education and labour markets for nurses. The analysis covered 16 countries across Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa.
The upcoming report shows that education investments need to be more targeted. Low absorption rates of nurse graduates into the workforce, often fuelled by recruitment inefficiencies or undesirable working conditions, results in unemployment among nurses despite the overall shortage, Araujo said.
The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives to achieve universal health coverage by 2030, Araujo also said.
He added, “To close this gap, nursing graduates would need to increase by 8% per year on average globally. Without that, current trends indicate that we would have only 36 million nurses by 2030, with the deficit concentrated in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the eastern Mediterranean.”