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Downtime crucial for those on the front line

Thursday, October 01, 2020

The threat of the novel coronavirus has led to many Jamaicans making choices that wouldn't even have been contemplated less than a year ago; like choosing to stay away from a favourite watering hole after work on a Friday afternoon; or opting for a drink alone, a long walk, or prayer, in memory of a good friend, rather than attend his/her funeral. Such are the strange circumstances in which people find themselves, not just in Jamaica, but everywhere, as a result of the dreadful virus.

In line with the recommendations of the health authorities, many people are taking extra care and staying away from danger as much as is possible.

But there are some for whom staying away from the line of fire is not an option.

We immediately think of our health workers and security force personnel, among others, who must be on the front line on a daily basis, pursuant to their sworn duty, no matter the threat posed by COVID-19.

For that reason, we are buoyed by news that the Government is to make an effort to ease the burden on health workers by proactively facilitating rest time, relaxation, counselling, etc, as well as employing additional staff.

The aim is to reduce the ever-present danger posed by stress brought on especially by the reality of the COVID-19 threat, overwork, and excessively long hours.

The initiatives announced by Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton include mandatory rest days for staff who work extremely long hours, mandatory 48-hour results for health workers tested for COVID-19, preferential rates in hotels, family support and counselling for those impacted by the virus, etc.

Says Dr Tufton: “We've... been experiencing significant and increasing burnout of the critical front-line workers, primarily the healthcare staff, but not exclusive to them. These are individuals who have been working at this for many hours each day since the start of this year. It has been an ongoing effort and a very stressful environment to work in, and we're seeing increasing evidence of burnout...”

We are told that the project will cost $75 million over two years. Hopefully that will be sufficient, given the partnerships with the private sector, including hoteliers, etc.

This newspaper recognises that cost is always a major hurdle, but we believe this project to ease the burden on health workers could also be extended to the security forces who must deal with the scourge of crime.

Very importantly, Dr Tufton tells us that increased efforts are being made to heighten public health staff numbers, which is no doubt the best way to ease the burden on those currently employed.

In addition to expanding the public health sector by employing more graduates of the various training institutions, the minister said more personnel support will be sought from neighbouring Cuba.

We applaud the efforts to ease the burden for those who have no choice but to be at the front of the battle.