COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the long-standing shortcomings of some public health systems, and there are many lessons to be learned from this pandemic. Apart from its enormous health and economic impact, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way of practicing medicine and medical education. This effect is likely to accelerate the transformation both activities are undergoing.
In many countries, there are ongoing initiatives to various tributes mass thanking doctors for their heroic work in the diagnosis, monitoring, and patient care during the pandemic of the COVID-19. The expressions of gratitude and admiration are certainly an important source of motivation for doctors, but true support goes beyond applause. Certainly, doctors who quit their job because they don’t wish to deal with covid-19 are not liable to work again.
The comprehensive protection of health personnel consists of physical measures to prevent contagion and include protecting their mental health and quality of life. Health personnel is dealing with the social changes and emotional stress that all people face in the current circumstances. Still, they also face an increased risk of exposure to disease, extreme workloads, moral dilemmas, and an environment unpredictable practice changes from day-to-day. However, this is the turning point for some doctors to protest and leave the risky job.
Lessons from past epidemics
As with COVID-19, during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic, health personnel who had to undergo quarantine experienced serious effects on their mental health, including acute stress disorders, depression, alcohol abuse, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress even three years after this event. This is being corroborated in the current pandemic, as preliminary research in China shows high rates of mental health problems in nursing and first-line health personnel, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress.
What are the issues of doctors working covid-19?
- Have access to the appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Not having prompt access to diagnostic tests if they develop COVID-19 symptoms and an accompanying fear of spreading the infection at work.
- Exposing yourself to COVID-19 at work and bringing the infection to your family.
- Being able to count on support for other personal and family needs (food, hydration, accommodation, transportation) that increase with additional work hours.
- Being uncertain about whether your employer will meet your personal and family needs in case of infection.
- Being able to count on childcare during increased working hours and school closings.
- Be able to provide competent clinical care if transferred to another area of care.
- Lack of access to up-to-date information and communication.
Securing and maintaining an adequate human resource for health care in this crisis requires measures to support health personnel to perform to their full potential over an extended period. Paradoxically, as a final reflection, there is an opportunity to intervene seriously finally, and it depends on doctors to work for the covid-19 healthcare or choose to quit their job. Still, after that, they are not eligible for work.