African healthcare workers suffer from stress and exhaustion induced by COVID-19

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The pandemic could worsen in sub-Saharan Africa if healthcare workers quit their jobs due to fear of COVID-19, stress, burnout and poor pay, a study suggests.

The World Health Organization (WHO) last month released a joint statement in which it said its partners and member states were “deeply concerned about the likely number of deaths, the low overall immunization rate and inequalities in vaccine issues among health workers in low and middle countries. income country ”.

The statement added that as of September 2021, less than ten percent of health workers in the WHO African region had been fully immunized, while the corresponding figure for 22 mostly high-income countries was over 80. percent. He urged political leaders and policymakers to do everything in their power to make regulatory, policy and investment decisions that ensure the protection of healthcare workers.

Higher perceived readiness was associated with higher satisfaction, while high stress and burnout were associated with lower satisfaction. “

Patience Afulani, University of California, San Francisco

According to the study published in PLOS Global Public Health, around one in three healthcare workers (38%) in Ghana and Kenya is dissatisfied with their job.

About 62% said they were not prepared for the pandemic, while about 70% said they were under stress and 69% suffered from burnout.

“Given the already precarious position of health workers in Africa, if efforts are not put in place to improve the job satisfaction of health workers, the pandemic could be made worse by the fact that health workers quit their jobs or perform poorly, “said Patience Afulani, senior author and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco in the United States.

Afulani said the study was conducted in two phases: the first phase included data collected in Ghana from April 17 to May 31, 2020, while for phase two, data was collected in Ghana and Kenya from 9 November 2020 to March 8, 2021.

“Better perceived preparation was associated with higher satisfaction, while high stress and burnout were associated with lower satisfaction,” says Afulani.

“Interventions to combat stress and burnout are particularly important and necessary,” the study adds. “Programs such as mindfulness training in the workplace, stress management initiatives and peer support have helped alleviate the effects of stress and burnout.

Stephen Tabiri, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Development Studies in Ghana, said: “This study is very relevant to the [healthcare workers] and stakeholders in sub-Saharan Africa because it has shown… that many of them are not satisfied with their environment and their working conditions and more particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. He adds that the implementation of the proposed interventions of this study is necessary to improve job satisfaction, performance, engagement, absenteeism, retention, turnover as well as patient satisfaction.

Tabiri told SciDev.Net that to mitigate the impact of future pandemics, health officials in sub-Saharan Africa should be trained in effective communication and how to provide support to frontline health workers and their families.


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