Health ministry issues enhanced safety guidelines for COVID frontline health workers

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Health workers take care of a COVID-19 patient at a COVID-19 field hospital in Tân Bình District, HCM City. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Health workers who work at least 10 consecutive hours per day must be given seven to eight hours for sleeping, according to new Ministry of Health rules.

After 14 consecutive working days, they should be off for 48 ​​hours. If they work five consecutive eight-hour shifts or four 10-hour shifts, health workers should get one or two days off.

If working three consecutive shifts lasting 12 hours, health workers must have two days off.

These are part of the health ministry’s Decision 838/QD-BYT on occupational safety and hygiene for health workers on the COVID-19 frontline.

Under the guideline, the ministry suggests health workers who take 12-hour shifts should be assigned to do administrative work.

Health workers who work in high intensity and harsh working environments or have exposure to occupational risks should be given shorter shifts.

Health facilities are asked to provide nutritious meals for health workers and shorten shift time.

To ensure safety and health for medical staff in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical facilities are asked to apply and implement preventive measures.

The measures include allowing employees to stay home if suspected of COVID-19 with specific symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing; reducing working time; increasing break times for medical workers who wear full personal protective equipment or those who work in hot weather; reducing stress and fatigue for healthcare workers by rotating shifts; and rotating healthcare workers from stressful working positions to less stressful ones.

Health workers should be given a regular short break every one or two working hours. They should be allowed to have longer lunch and dinner breaks.

Also, in the latest guideline, the health ministry classified health workers into six groups with specific risks of COVID-19 exposure.

The main risks include infection with SARS-CoV-2 during work; dermatitis caused by wearing personal protective equipment for long periods and hot weather; heat stress (heatstroke, heatstroke) from wearing PPE for long periods and in hot weather; and exposure to disinfectant chemicals due to high frequency of use.

Health workers also face risks of prolonged fatigue due to long hours, insufficient rest time, and inadequate nutrition; violence, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace; mental health disorders due to psychological stress; and musculoskeletal pain caused by lifting, transporting and caring for patients and heavy objects.

Việt Nam has experienced four waves of the COVID-19 pandemic since the first case was confirmed in early 2020. For the fourth wave starting from April 2021, the health sector mobilised its largest force ever, with more than 25,000 professors, doctors, medical staff and medical students joining COVID-19 prevention and control.

Last year, hundreds of thousands of health workers restlessly worked during the pandemic, and about 3,000 health workers were infected with SARS-CoV-2, of which more than 10 died of the disease. — VNS

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