Prioritise protection of health professionals—International Council of Nurses

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the International Council of Nurses (ICN), Mr Howard Catton has expressed concern over the high rate of COVIVD-19 infections among frontline workers, especially nurses.

He has, therefore, called on governments across the world to prioritise the protection of health professionals, especially nurses by making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) easily available to them.

“The International Council of Nurses is extremely worried by the high rate of COVID-19 infection among nurses globally, it is therefore important that governments prioritise the protection of health professionals across board,” he said.

Mr Catton who was speaking to the Ghanaian Times by telephone from his base in Switzerland said already the world was grappling with how to address the deficit of over six million nurses in the health care delivery sector.

“We risk worsening the already existing global deficit if the rate at which nurses are being infected by the coronavirus in their line of duty continues,” he emphasised.

He said though there was a deficit of six million nurses across the globe, the distribution of the deficit was not even, with countries in South Saharan Africa and South East Asia being the hardest hit.

“The deficit of six million is not spread evenly on the globe. The deficit is mostly in Africa and South East Asia which also have some of the lowest income countries,” he said.

Mr Catton said the low income countries had less than ten nurses per ten thousand of the population compared to the high earning countries that have 100 nurses per thousand of the population.

He noted that it was even more worrying that more than 12 per cent of nurses even in the developed countries had no access to PPE.

“Giving the importance of PPE, it is important that leaders of the G20 come out together to negotiate for enough production and supply across the globe.

 It is not just ensuring production, but also ensuring a fair distribution of the PPE by addressing the logistical challenges,” he stressed.

Mr Catton said even though some manufacturers had stepped up production, it was important to ensure that their production met the necessary safety standards.

He said the pandemic had exposed the weakness in the world health system and its preparedness towards outbreaks, adding that “Current happenings clearly show lack of preparedness of the world which has helped to escalate the pandemic.”

The CEO said even though it was good the world was putting in place a stockpile of PPE now, it should have been done long ago.

“Investment in health has not been sufficient and the pandemic has exposed that. One of the lessons to learn from it is for the world to learn from its mistakes and prepare for the next pandemic,” he emphasised.

Mr Catton praised health professionals, especially nurses for their role in combating the menace, stressing that “Everybody is acknowledging the immeasurable work nurses are doing. They are the real heroes and they are being recognised in a way never before.”

The ICN is an umbrella body of Nurses Conferences and Associations across 130 membership across the world representing the interest of more than 25 million nurses.

By Cliff Ekuful

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