YEL Report on Hospital Workers Wellbeing




Authors: Logandran Naidoo (South Africa, Co-chair), Hsin-Liang Liu (Taiwan, Co-chair), Linda Jorgensen (Australia), Nadine Abu Kaoud (Jordan), Omolara Oyadotun (Nigeria), Fatma Al Jahwari (Oman), Sara Al Shaya (United Arab Emirates). Reviewed by Tavy Alford (IHF Intern).


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive influence on the labour industry, and particularly on the wellbeing of health care workers (HCW). HCWs have suffered unfavourable outcomes as a result of the psychological stress and uncertainty brought on by the current shifting employment environment (De-la-Calle-Durán & Rodríguez-Sánchez, 2021). HCWs are not only dealing with an increase in the volume and intensity of their work, but they are also working with new challenges such as unfamiliar working environments, changing policies, and unprecedented trauma exposure with little time for orientation and training. Accordingly, it was widely acknowledged that there is an urgent need to support the HCW wellbeing, particularly their psychological health, during the pandemic (Blake et al., 2020).

The purpose of this project was to conduct a multi-country comparative literature review among seven selected countries represented by the respective seven members of subgroup 4 of the International Hospital Federation’s Young Executive Leaders 2021 Programme (IHF YEL). The project answers the question: “How does the employer-employee role in relation to support measures for frontline HCW wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic compare across seven countries?” The seven countries used to answer this question are Australia, Jordan, Nigeria, Oman, South Africa, Taiwan and United Arab. The project sought to evaluate the scope and requirements of possible modifications to relevant policy and legislation involving HCWs wellbeing by examining perspectives from the seven selected countries to ultimately ensure adequate HCW wellbeing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The four main objectives of the project were, in each of the seven countries:

1 – To examine what each country’s employee wellbeing (including OHS) legislation/ policies/ guidelines state about ensuring employee wellbeing in general (pre-COVID);

2 – To explore the psychological and non-psychological measures for frontline HCW wellbeing during COVID-19 that are stipulated in legislation, policies and guidelines in each country;

3 – To identify and describe the challenges that employers often experience in attempting to provide the support measures for frontline HCW wellbeing; and

4 – To identify and describe factors that influence frontline HCWs in their decision to comply with and/or access the available support measures.

A systematic literature search process was conducted, based on scoping review techniques, for literature published using several databases in the seven selected countries. Scoping review methods were used for their ability to explore broad research questions and interpret large amounts of material from various forms of existing data.

The reviewed literature reflected that the focus of employee wellbeing across the seven countries varies based on several factors, including cultural and societal views, financial constraints, and legal and social systems. There is apparently a broad focus on employee health and safety, whereas marginal attention has been paid on establishing a holistic approach towards HCW wellbeing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of well-structured wellbeing programmes, many HCWs have already suffered unfavourable outcomes as a result of the psychological stress and uncertainty brought on by the current shifting employment environment. The rising prevalence of mental disorders, stress-associated outcomes, and chronic diseases among HCWs, necessitate a focus on their wellbeing.

The main actions in implementing and evaluating a successful wellbeing policy include: generating support and collaboration, coordinating implementation, training, establishing demonstration projects and evaluating the outcomes. However, most of the reviewed countries had insufficient funding to manage a pandemic of this magnitude, resulting in inability to provide the necessary employee safety and wellness facilities. Most of the countries had infrastructure challenges relating to creating isolation facilities, and resorted to repurposing pre-existing facilities at the expense of other services being rendered. Staff shortages, inadequate training and ever-changing policies all affected employee and employer compliance with health and safety measures.

The means of achieving employee wellbeing are typically the responsibility of the employer, but true wellbeing necessitates worker autonomy, a role in selecting the organization, and conditions of work, as well as a decent income and the ability to partake in the organization’s success. Action to address employee wellbeing requires a broader approach than the traditional scope of occupational safety and health. An overarching or integrating approach must be developed, that can be operationalized to maximize the benefits of employment while also managing risks linked to wellbeing.

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