THE EDITOR: I write to discuss the effects of burnout of our healthcare providers and by extension the public requiring medical treatment.
As a healthcare provider myself and a previous executive officer of a union, I am always defensive and quick to justify the actions of fellow healthcare providers but within recent times I have been on the other side – as a patient.
As a patient I have observed my usually meticulous colleagues become careless, agitated and uncharacteristically berate patients. I would like to commend the South West Regional Health Authority and its management for taking the initiative, during the covid19 pandemic, to implement a mental health hotline and have discussions regarding sleep apnoea.
However, there has been limited discussion by management of the regional health authorities and by extension the public health facilities about the effects of burnout as a result of the pandemic on healthcare workers and patients.
How would burnout affect the patients? There may be misdiagnosis, lack of communication between healthcare workers and patients resulting in increased anxiety of patients, increased cases of missed appointments resulting in progression of illnesses, just to name two.
Proposals have been submitted to the chief personnel officer for salary negotiations by the executive officers of recognised majority unions but there is no adequate compensation for the consequences of burnout, moreso as a result of the pandemic. Healthcare workers were subject to limited vacation and extended working hours. There has been disruption of their family lives and ability to socialise.
The reduction in the covid19 restrictions should result in a return to normalcy but what has indeed occurred is an increase in obesity, hypertension, stress, anxiety and sleep disorders within the population, greater levels of unemployment and as a result a larger percentage of the population will be utilising public health facilities. This may result in burnout yet again.
I implore the managements to address burnout of healthcare providers as there has already been great migration of our skilled healthcare workers and the quality of service may be heavily impacted.