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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The EU workforce is dwindling, resulting in a serious time-sensitive issue that needs to be addressed immediately

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The World Health Organisation/Europe report has revealed a worrying statistic: in one third of countries in Europe and central Asia, 40% of medical doctors are close to retirement age. This could bring about disaster if immediate action is not taken. All countries in the WHO European Region, encompassing 53 member states, are faced with a severe health and care workforce challenge. 13 of the 44 countries that reported data revealed that 40% of their medical doctors were already 55 years old or above.

Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, warned of the consequences of personnel shortages, insufficient recruitment, migration of qualified workers, unattractive working conditions, and poor access to continuing professional development opportunities: “All of these threats represent a ticking time bomb which, if not addressed, is likely to lead to poor health outcomes, long waiting times for treatment, many preventable deaths, and potentially even health system collapse.”

The pandemic has only made the situation more serious, with around 50,000 health and care workers in Europe alone estimated to have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Burnout and demographic factors are contributing to a diminishing labour force. Now, governments and health authorities must ensure that retiring doctors and other health and care workers are adequately replaced.

Another key point of the report is the poor mental health of the workforce in the Region. Long working hours, inadequate professional support, and high infection and death rates due to COVID-19 have all taken a toll. In some countries, over 80% of nurses reported psychological distress, with 9 out of 10 of them wanting to quit their jobs.

The report also highlighted sub-regional variations in health worker availability. While the 53 countries of the Region have more health workers than in other WHO regions, there are still substantial shortages and gaps. Health worker density ranges from 54.3 per 10 000 people in Turkey to over 200 per 10 000 people in Iceland, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland.

WHO/Europe has urged countries to take action to train, recruit and retain the next generation of health and care workers. Policy makers must come up with effective, innovative and smart approaches to respond to the challenges, especially in times of economic crisis. Examples of successful initiatives have been seen in Ireland, with the Enhanced Community Care programme, and in Kyrgyzstan, with the pay-for-performance system in primary health care.

The time to act on health and care workforce shortages is now. Strategic planning and smart investment are essential to make sure health workers have the tools and support they need to care for themselves and their patients. Failing to rise to this challenge will have serious consequences.

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Owen
Owen
Owen is an excited writer with over 10 years of experience in the newspaper industry. Born and raised in Ireland, Owen developed a passion for writing and journalism at a young age. He pursued this passion by studying journalism in college and quickly landed a job as a reporter at a local newspaper. Over the years, Owen worked his way up the ranks in the newspaper industry, eventually becoming one of the top editors in the company.

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