Health-care workers are at risk of COVID-19 exposure, yet are left without adequate protections, says a study by occupational health researchers at the University of Windsor.
In Canada, health-care workers have been disproportionately infected by COVID-19, making up nearly 20 per cent of cases, write the authors — doctoral student Jane McArthur, instructors James Brophy and Margaret Keith, and Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions — in an article published Monday in the Conversation, which shares news and views from the academic and research community.
“Health-care workers are not allowed to talk publicly about their working conditions,” the article states. “They are systematically silenced — disciplined or fired — for speaking out about unsafe working conditions.”
For their study, the researchers conducted anonymous interviews with health-care workers.
“The risk of being infected with COVID-19, the lack of preparedness by governments, little success in arguing for better protection, and being barred from speaking publicly have left health-care workers feeling angry, fearful, and sacrificed,” they found. “The vulnerability and physical and mental health impact on health-care workers also affects health-care delivery to the public.”
The study concludes with recommendations that include:
- Increased staffing levels in Ontario’s hospitals and in long-term care.
- Changes to the workplace culture so health-care workers are heard.
- Strong management support to mitigate mental distress.
- Improved working conditions and personal protective equipment.
- Legislated protection to allow staff to speak without reprisal.
Read the entire piece, “Silenced and sacrificed: COVID-19 health-care workers’ secret suffering unveiled” in the Conversation.