Burnout prompts $74-m health workers welfare programme

Burnout prompts $74-m health workers welfare programme

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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GOVERNMENT is to expend just under $75 million across two financial years on staff welfare, following an increase in the cases of front-line workers experiencing burnout as the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic continues.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton made the announcement in Parliament yesterday, following a slew of complaints from medical practitioners about staff shortage at public health facilities and extended work hours.

Tufton said $37 million will be spent in this financial year and an additional $37 million is to be requested in the 2021/22 financial year, and that this is to provide support to preserve the well-being of health care and front-line workers.

The minister said for the past few weeks, the health and wellness ministry has embarked on a programme to “bolster staff well-being”, as they are significantly affected by the pandemic.

“We've also been experiencing significant and increasing burnout of the critical front-line workers, primarily the health care 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,” said Tufton.

The programme, to be overseen by the health ministry, is expected to have five components, Tufton said, which will include human resource management, staff engagement and communication, rest and relaxation, COVID support, and wellness.

He said each component will be supported through strong collaboration with the private sector, to support the implementation of the intervention.

“Staff burnout is a major impediment to the COVID-19 fight and, as a ministry, we have heard the growing cries for increased intervention and we must respond,” said Tufton.

He said the programme will lead to several initiatives, to include mandatory rest days for staff who work excessive hours, mandatory 48-hour results for staff members who have been tested for COVID-19, preferential rates in hotels and other facilities to support staff, family support and counselling for those impacted by the disease, and increased engagement and support to management and regions in parishes to support staff.

Additionally, Tufton said Government intends to further build the cadre of the country's health care workers, as fatigue and stress set in.

He said, although relief and coping mechanisms are being provided, the Government must also expand the number of health care workers.

In addition to the 121 doctors and medical officers employed since September 1, Tufton said that Government is in the process of engaging all new graduate nurses for employment within the public health system.

“We're now coordinating with the nursing training institutions and looking at the numbers that are available and adjusting the establishment to cater to those numbers, in keeping with the challenges that we face and must overcome.

“We have started the process of employing additional nurses from our colleagues next door — the Cuban Brigade — and this is an agreement that we've had for some time. When the COVID response started earlier in the year, we brought in 150 health care workers. We're likely to double that, but that is subject to a proper assessment as to what we need and what is available locally. But, already discussions have commenced to expand the cadre from Cuba as part of enhancing the COVID response,” said the minister.


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