La Giornata Mondiale della Sanità cade nella più grave emergenza sanitaria nella storia dell’OMS. Sostenere gli operatori medico-sanitari oggi significa riaffermare la salute come diritto umano fondamentale, in un sistema economico che assicuri servizi pubblici di qualità per tutti. Da “Public Services International”.
This year’s World Health Day falls during the gravest public health emergency in the history of the World Health Organization (WHO). Over a million people have been infected by the new coronavirus and it has killed about 70,000 people. And these grim figures continue to rise. Governments and the international community must take urgent and decisive action to curtail and defeat the pandemic and ensure that never again will humankind be put in such jeopardy.
Healthcare workers on the front line of the COVID-19 response face a perilous situation. They are overstretched because our hospitals are grossly understaffed. And there is not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them properly. This sobering situation is worrying for health workers and their families. It also impedes the global pandemic response.
Years of privatisation and cuts in the funding of public healthcare preceded this morbid scenario of unpreparedness of health systems. Based on a neoliberal consensus, pushed with the policies and programmes of the international financial institutions, governments have slashed wages and put ceilings on health and social sector employment, despite the pressing need for employing more health workers.
Just four years ago, there seemed to be renewed hope that understaffing would become a thing of the past when governments committed to implementing recommendations of the United Nations High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth (UN-CommHEEG) to improve health employment and working conditions, to meet the envisaged global shortfall of 18 million health workers and achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
The World Health Assembly further resolved on a five-year action plan for health employment and inclusive economic growth based on those recommendations, in 2017. But alas, when the pandemic started, very little had been done to implement the plan.
As the Director General of the WHO noted at the beginning of 2020, we might be entering a period of pandemics which the world will be “dangerously unprepared” for. To avoid this, starting from now, governments must prioritise investment in health and take all necessary measures to safeguard the lives and wellbeing of health workers and other workers on the frontline of response without delay. We need safe workers to save lives.
This crisis further highlights the importance of the social and economic determinants of health. Poverty and overcrowded housing make social and physical distancing very difficult if not impossible for millions of people. In several cities, this has led to people shunning lockdown directives. Lack of access to potable water for 40% of the global population means some people cannot apply even basic preventive measures such as handwashing.