Saturday, April 17, 2021

Global Panicdemic Teaches Nurses They're Expendable Resources For Corporate Profit

FT |  When Silvia, a 33-year-old Italian nurse, received a bonus worth less than €500 after months battling one of Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, she wondered if it “was a joke”. She had worked on a busy Covid-19 ward of a hospital in the city of Genoa throughout the crisis, putting her health on the line and missing out on time with her young daughter “from a sense of duty and love for the job”. The one-off bonus from the Italian health ministry announced late last year was “almost insulting for those of us who had spent months on the frontline risking our lives”, said Silvia, who declined to give her full name. Silvia’s disillusionment points to the scale of the challenge for pandemic-hit governments around the world as they grapple with the question of how, and whether, to reward staff who endured the most searing experience of their professional lives. In many cases, the discussions have forced governments to acknowledge longstanding grievances from healthcare workers about their pay and conditions. The ability to retain and recruit staff will also play a vital role in determining how strongly not just health systems, but national economies, emerge from the crisis.

Chris James, senior OECD health economist, said the focus had already shifted from worries over the availability of hospital beds and ventilators in the early phase of the pandemic to anxieties over staffing levels. “Moving forward, one of the big discussion points among OECD countries is how do we make sure health systems can be stronger in future waves of Covid and meet any other emerging threat,” he said. “The health workforce is at the centre of that.” Demand for healthcare workers exceeded supply long before the pandemic struck, said Anita Charlesworth, chief economist for the Health Foundation, a UK-based charity. This was fuelled by a global commitment to achieve universal health coverage and the rapid spread of diseases such as cancer and diabetes as nations industrialise and prosper. Charlesworth pointed to a World Health Organization estimate that Europe would have a shortfall of 1.5m nurses by the end of the decade. The global estimate would be 13.5m. “If we’re going to be more resistant to the shocks of emerging infectious diseases we’re going to need a bigger buffer,” she said.