Protect Our Nurses! - ICN calls for greater support for frontline healthcare workers

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) reissued its call for increased support of and safer working environments for nurses and other healthcare workers on the frontlines of healthcare. The call follows a preliminary report issued by the World Health Organization which states that of the 815 healthcare workers who have been infected by the Ebola virus since the onset of the epidemic, more than 50% are nurses and nurse aides. Two thirds of the health workers who have been infected have died.

Zaire ebolavirus
Zaire ebolavirus
Source: Image: Wikipedia.org

“Nurses are putting their very lives at risk to care for others,” said David Benton, ICN’s Chief Executive Officer. “This report reinforces the need for vigilance, as well as the need for safe working environments for well-prepared healthcare workers in sufficient numbers.  The devastating numbers of nurses who have lost their lives shows there is clearly an essential need for significant strengthening of safety policies, and the provision of adequate protective equipment and appropriate training.”

The report indicates that “health workers are 21-32 times more likely to be infected with Ebola” than are adults in the general population.  While nurses account for more than 50% of all health workers infected, doctors and medical students account for 12%, and laboratory workers and trade and elementary workers account for 7% each.

Ebola infections among healthcare workers have had devastating effects on health systems, including closure of hospitals, depletion of the much needed healthcare workforce and distrust in the health system. The WHO report states that Ebola “has exacerbated the pre-existing shortage of health workers, high rates of attrition, uneven distribution, poor employment conditions and gaps in OHS [occupational health and safety] in the three countries [Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone].”

In October 2014, ICN held a World Summit on Nursing and the Ebola Virus in conjunction with the Spanish Nursing Council (Consejo General de Enfermería), which brought together representatives from the European Federation of Nurses, Médecins sans Frontières, nursing association and societies as well as expert nurses in direct care of Ebola patients.  The resulting Madrid Declaration called on governments to create safe working environments for healthcare workers as a prerequisite to the provision of care to Ebola patients. In addition, it called for adequate training and education, availability of protective equipment, as well as active participation by nurses in policy making regarding the prevention and care of patients.

For further information contact Lindsey Williamson at: media@icn.ch

Source: press release www.icn.ch


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