Around 14% of coronavirus cases reported to the World Health Organization are among health workers, and in some countries, it is as much as 35%, the WHO chief said Thursday on World Patient Safety Day.

Speaking at a webinar to launch a charter on health worker safety, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said: “One of the keys to keeping patients safe is keeping health workers safe.

“Now more than ever, we have a duty to give health workers the safe working conditions, the training, the pay, and the respect they deserve.”

He said data is limited and it is hard to know whether health workers are infected in their workplaces or communities.

One in 10 people hospitalized worldwide experience a safety failure or adverse event, and the coronavirus.

It is a reminder of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives, said Tedros.

“We all owe health workers an enormous debt – not just because they have cared for the sick. But because they risk their own lives in the line of duty.

“It’s not just the risk of infection. Every day, health workers are exposed to stress, burnout, stigma, discrimination, and even violence,” said the WHO chief.

That is why in 2020, the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, World Patient Safety Day is dedicated to health workers’ safety.

Charter on health worker safety

“Making sure health workers are safe, protected, and well-prepared also protects the people they serve,” said Tedros.

To mark World Patient Safety Day, WHO is launching a charter on health worker safety.

The charter asks countries and health groups to commit to worker safety, develop national occupational health and safety programs for health workers, and to protect against workplace violence.

It also aims to improve health workers’ mental health and psychological well-being and protect health workers from physical and biological hazards.

“No country, hospital, or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe,” said Tedros.

At the same webinar, Dr. Edward Kelley, WHO director of Service Delivery and Safety, said that the COVID-19 pandemic had not created new problems, but had “shone a light” on some of them and that health worker safety as part of patient safety is a key one in that.

“In 2019, there were over 1,000 confirmed attacks on health care workers,” said Kelley.

“These are the types of issues that governments should also be concerned with, and they should also address.”

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