New Delhi: In the wake of the coronavirus global pandemic, lakhs of nurses are leaving behind their comfort and safety to fight the COVID-19 crisis which has infected more than 13.4 lakh people and caused more than 74,800 fatalities worldwide, as on April 7, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This year’s World Health Day theme ‘Support Nurses And Midwives’ couldn’t be more apt as it honours the work of nurses and midwives across the globe.
The World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7 to spread the awareness around maintaining good health and a balanced lifestyle. This year, WHO calls for people to extend their gratitude and support nurses and midwives across the world.
Today, we celebrate the work of nurses & midwives by showing our appreciation for their bravery, courage & resolve in the global #COVID19 response.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) April 6, 2020
World Health Day this year comes at a very difficult time for all of us.
We are more grateful than ever to all of our health workers fighting the #COVID19 pandemic.
You make us proud and you inspire us.
We stand with you and we count on you. pic.twitter.com/laENQX4HfK
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 7, 2020
Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India said to NDTV,
The 2020 World Health Day is a recognition and an acknowledgement of the critical role that nurses and midwives play in keeping the world healthy. They are integral to building a strong and resilient health system for achieving Universal Health Coverage. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus their heroic efforts as a vital part of the dedicated health workforce – doctors, clinicians, nurses, attendants etc. – in keeping communities safe and healthy. As the world marks the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, let us all come together to show our appreciation and gratitude for their work and thank them for their contribution in bringing hope, warmth, compassion and personalised care to communities across the world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also taken this opportunity to urge the citizens on Tuesday to reaffirm their gratitude towards all doctors, nurses, medical staff and healthcare workers leading a battle against COVID-19.
Today on #WorldHealthDay, let us not only pray for each other’s good health and well-being but also reaffirm our gratitude towards all those doctors, nurses, medical staff and healthcare workers who are bravely leading the battle against the COVID-19 menace. ????????
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 7, 2020
‘It’s Been Rough And Incredibly Challenging’, Says A Nurse In Public Hospital In Bhagalpur, Bihar
32-year-old Seema Kumari (name changed) is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. A nurse who works in the surgical ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital (JLNH), Bhagalpur, Seema is now helping treat patients with early signs of coronavirus. Working for more than 12 hours every day, Seema says that the number of patients is increasing and the number of people coming with early symptoms is also increasing exponentially. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), there have been more than 30 cases of COVID-19 reported in Bihar and 1 death. Being a centre for coronavirus treatment, JLNH receives hundreds of patients every day. However, due to the lack of sufficient Personal Protection Equipments (PPEs), the nurses and other hospital staff members including chemists near the hospital, says Seema. She told NDTV,
We received our first patient several days after the epidemic started. It was terrible at first. The hospital had only a little staff dedicated coronavirus patients earlier but now the whole hospital has been converted into COVID-19 hospital with more than 100 beds. We have six active cases out of which four may get discharged soon. But the number of patients will increase from now because the number of suspected cases are increasing exponentially.
She further said that the primary worry is that there are not enough PPEs and that it will still take many more days before there is a vaccine for COVID-19. She said,
We have dedicated ourselves to the cause of medicine and humanity and we will always keep our patient even prior to our own lives. But the nursing staff is so small that if we start losing nurses or start putting them into quarantine, the public health system will collapse. We request the state government and the central government to focus even more on making more PPEs available and more medical equipments and machines available to hospitals. I am sure that the government must be working in this direction but they need to do everything in their power towards protecting healthcare staff. The fear has increased even more since the report of more than 20 nurses in Mumbai getting infected by coronavirus. I live in a hostel with so many other nurses. If one of us get the infection, all of our lives will be in peril.
Recently, the Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) of Safdarjung Hospital has reached out to the general public urging them to donate protective equipments and other consumables for Safdarjung Hospital which is the nodal centre for treatment, isolation and quarantine for COVID-19 in Delhi. Appealing to the public, RDA, Safdurjang Hospital wrote,
The administration is trying its level best but the demand is surpassing the supply. We are in dire need of 50,000 PPE kits (Hazmat suits), 50,000 N-95 masks, 3 lakh triple layer masks and 10,000 bottles of hand sanitiser.
According to Dr. Raman R Gangakhedkar, Chief, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), while the central government provides support in terms of funding, it is the responsibility of the state governments to make PPE available.
While talking about the public healthcare system in the country, Dr. Shweta Khandelwal, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) Delhi said that the budget for medical facilities matters the most and must be increased. She said,
Our healthcare expenditure amounted to around 1.58 trillion Indian rupees as per government data. This works out to be 1.28 per cent of the country’s GDP, way less than promised/expected at least 2.5 per cent. Of course, this has ramifications on our preparedness against pandemics like COVID-19. Whether it is simple things like masks, sanitisers PPEs or advanced machines and lifesaving drugs, without enough sustained budgetary allocations we will always find ourselves compromising on the health and safety of our valuable human resource.
Dr Sukhpal Kaur, a Lecturer at the National Institute of Nursing Education, Chandigarh said that in order to minimise the fear, anxiety and doubts and to boost the morale of the nursing staff, capacity building and capacity strengthening both in terms of quality and quantity for nurses are critical.
“Invest In Nurses”, Says WHO
In a bid to highlight the status of the frontline healthcare staff around the world, WHO conducted a study. Taking a cue from the findings of the study, the WHO has called upon the governments of the world to urgently invest in nurses and to equip the world with the nursing workforce it needs. According to the study, the global nursing workforce is only 2.8 crore of which only 1.9 crore are professional nurses. WHO has recommended all countries to
-increase funding to educate and employ more nurses,
– strengthen capacity to collect, analyze and act on data about the health workforce
– ensure that nurses in primary health care teams work to their full potential, for example in preventing and managing noncommunicable diseases
– improve working conditions including through safe staffing levels, fair salaries, and respecting rights to occupational health and safety
Health care heroes need protection – @SRtoxics calls on States and businesses to urgently step up their efforts to ensure that #healthcare workers fighting the #COVID19 pandemic worldwide receive adequate protective equipment.
— UN Special Procedures (@UN_SPExperts) March 27, 2020
According to WHO, investment in nurses will contribute not only to health-related SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) targets, but also to education (SDG 4), gender (SDG 5), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8).