Pandemic exposes the vulnerability of under resourced health systems
A new US study highlights how COVID-19 battered an already poorly resourced and vulnerable health system.
Even before the arrival of COVID-19, US hospital nurses were already struggling with high patient workloads and frequent operational failures, including missing supplies and missing or broken equipment, according to new research.
The study covered over 250 hospitals from November 2019 to February 2020 – before the surge in COVID-19 cases – and the findings were published in the British Medical Journal.
Nurses surveyed in the study gave a damning assessment of the state of their hospitals prior to COVID-19.
“Nearly half give their hospitals unfavourable grades on patient safety, a third give unfavourable grades on infection prevention and almost 70 per cent would not definitely recommend their hospitals,” researchers found.
“The majority of nurses report their work was frequently interrupted or delayed by insufficient staff and a third of nurses report interruptions or delays from missing supplies including medications and missing/broken equipment.”
The study found that half of nurses were experiencing high burnout, and one in four planned to leave their job within a year.
Over two-thirds of nurses would not recommend their hospitals to family and friends needing care, and almost half reported unfavourable patient safety ratings.
Patients corroborated this assessment. A third of patients rated their hospitals less than excellent and said they would definitely not recommend them.
The researchers describe the COVID-19 pandemic as “a real-time example of the public health implications of chronic hospital nurse understaffing”.
“Indeed, the pandemic has highlighted some of the pre-existing realities and inequities within the US healthcare system – among them: understaffed hospitals, a burned-out clinician workforce and poorer health outcomes among racial minorities,” it said.
The study cites other research into the public health implications of nurse understaffing for patients with COVID-19, which found that countries with higher workforce concentrations of RNs had lower COVID-19 mortality rates.
This, it concludes, highlights that “a robust nursing workforce is essential for addressing the current and future outbreaks”.
Sign an open letter to NSW Government’s premier and health minister
The NSWNMA has launched an online community campaign in support of nurses, midwives and ratios.
Nurses, midwives and community members are encouraged to sign an open letter to Gladys Berejiklian and Brad Hazzard. The letter asks them to value the extraordinary contribution of nurses and midwives, and to support them at work and improve patient outcomes by implementing shift-by-shift ratios. To sign the letter, go to:
There are also several videos of nurses talking about conditions on the frontline:
ACTU TV advert in support of essential workers
The ACTU has launched a television advertisement encouraging the public to support essential workers like nurses by getting vaccinated. You can watch the ad here.