All countries in the WHO European Region, including 53 Member States in Europe and Central Asia, are currently facing serious challenges related to their health and care workforce, according to a new report released today by WHO/Europe. doing. Among them, the aging of the labor force is the main factor. The analysis found that in 13 of the 44 countries that reported data on this issue, 40% of doctors already had a workforce he was 55 or older.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the aging of the healthcare and care workforce was a serious problem, but now, with severe burnout and demographic factors driving a shrinking workforce, even more concerned. Proper replacement of retired doctors and other health care workers will be a key policy concern for governments and health officials in the years to come. WHO/Europe calls on countries to act now to train, recruit and retain the next generation of health workers.
Another key finding of the report is the poor mental health of this workforce in the region. Long working hours, inadequate professional support, severe staffing shortages, and her high COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among frontline workers are especially noticeable in the early stages of the pandemic.
During the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020, absenteeism among health workers in the region increased by 62%, and nearly every country in the region reported mental health problems. In some countries, more than 80% of nurses report some form of emotional distress caused by the pandemic. WHO/Europe has received reports that 9 out of 10 nurses have expressed their intention to quit their jobs.
“My own journey through this pandemic has been a rollercoaster,” British nurse Sarah Gazzard said. I had a phone call in. It was very difficult for me, so I asked for help to deal with it.”
Complex situation across the region
The 53 countries in the region have the highest average number of doctors, nurses and midwives compared to other WHO regions, but countries in Europe and Central Asia still face significant shortages and gaps. We are facing it, and there are big differences depending on the region.
Availability of health workers varies five-fold across countries. The total density of doctors, nurses and midwives ranges from 54.3 per 10,000 population in Turkey to more than 200 per 10,000 population in Iceland, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland. At the subregional level, Central and West Asian countries have the lowest densities, while Northern and Western European countries have the highest densities.
“Understaffing, inadequate recruitment and retention, the movement of qualified workers, unattractive working conditions, and poor access to continuing professional development opportunities are wrecking health care systems,” it said. Dr. Hans-Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said:
“These are exacerbated by inadequate data and limited analytical capacity, poor governance and management, lack of strategic planning, and inadequate investment in workforce development. We estimate that about 50,000 medical and care workers may have died from COVID-19 alone.”
Dr. Kluge warns: Now is the time to address the health and care workforce shortage. Moreover, countries are responding to the challenges of times of severe economic crisis that require effective, innovative and smart approaches. ”
Annika Schröder is a midwife from Germany who works in a hospital where around 950 births take place each year. Her challenges there mirror those seen across the region. “I often work shifts without even the possibility to go to the bathroom, no time for breaks or meals,” she told WHO/Europe.
“Doorbells and phones ring as I rush from one room to another. On average, I care for two women’s deliveries at a time. Not the way I imagined the job.I am often exhausted and tired.The shortage of midwives makes childbirth jeopardy.And since the pandemic things have gotten even worse.We midwives, mothers , women in labour, and the physical and mental health of their babies,” explained Ms Schroeder.
Based on the latest data available for 2022, the averages for the region are:
- 80 nurses per 10,000
- 37 doctors per 10,000
- 8 physical therapists per 10,000
- 6.9 pharmacists per 10,000 people
- 6.7 dentists per 10,000 population
- 4.1 midwives per 10,000.
In WHO’s Global Strategy for Health Workforce 2016, the threshold for total population density of health workers is set at 44.5 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people. So while all countries in the region are now over the threshold, this does not mean that they can afford to be complacent. There are serious gaps and shortages in the health and care workforce that will only get worse over time without policies and practices to address them.
Meeting the Challenge: A Country Example
“Countries need to rethink how they support and manage their health workers. says.
“The region is at a critical crossroads. Strategic planning and smart investments are critical next steps to ensure healthcare workers have the tools and support they need to care for themselves and their patients.” “Society will pay a high price if we do not meet this challenge. This new report and the data it contains for each Member State offer solutions and opportunities that should not be overlooked.”
Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have already started taking bold and innovative steps. In Ireland, by 2028, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 14, and the government is promoting enhanced community care to help older people remain independent. introduced the program. This program will relieve pressure on the hospital system by providing enhanced community care services to the elderly in towns and villages across the country.
In Kyrgyzstan, the government introduced a pay-for-performance system for primary health care. The aim is to attract more doctors by increasing the salaries of doctors performing their duties. The system also includes an offer for the specialist to retrain as a primary care physician as his 30% of primary care physicians have retired in 2020.
In the UK, the government is steadily recruiting foreign-trained nurses and midwives to replace those retiring or leaving. There are currently around 114,000 foreign-trained nurses registered, a 66% increase from 2017/2018. Conversely, the number of trained nurses in the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) decreased by nearly 18% over the same period. This is likely due to the UK’s decision to leave the EU and reflects a significant shift from recruiting nurses from the EU/EEA to recruiting from other regions and countries, particularly India, Nigeria and the Philippines. increase.
Progressive steps have been taken in many places, but much more investment, innovation and partnerships are needed to avoid further health and care workforce shortages in the future. WHO/Europe urges all Member States (even those with above-average workforce densities today) not to waste time by: 10 actions To strengthen the medical and care workforce:
- line up Education with population needs and health service requirements
- Strengthen Professional development to equip employees with new knowledge and skills
- expansion Using digital tools to support employees
- Develop Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Healthcare Workers in Rural and Remote Areas
- create Working conditions that promote a healthy work-life balance
- protect Employee health and well-being
- build Leadership competencies for workforce governance and planning
- improvement Health information system for better data collection and analysis
- gain Public investment in workforce education, development and protection
- optimisation Use of funds for innovative workforce policies.