Guidance to PSI unions on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa

11 August 2014
11 August 2014. Public Services International affiliated health workers’ unions in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone first warned their employers, their governments and the media of the threat of Ebola virus disease (EBV) early in 2014. Five months later, faced with the spread of the disease, including new cases in Nigeria - and the danger to health care workers in particular, the international community is mobilising. And these same health workers’ unions, as well as those in other countries, stand ready to support efforts to stop the spread.

PSI is calling on unions in the field to continue the work they have already started to avoid contagion and protect health workers.

PSI is also asking for support to our unions in the field, including donations to the PSI Aid Fund.

The World Health Organization on 8 August 2014 announced a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), with various recommendations to national and local governments of the countries affected, to neighbouring countries, to agencies of the UN and other actors.

Key among the recommendations are measures to ensure that all workers who come into contact with infected people or contaminated materials, and most especially health workers, are immediately provided with the necessary tools, equipment, training and support to be able to do their jobs safely.

“…ensure all necessary measures are taken to mobilize and remunerate the necessary health care workforce…

…ensure that sufficient medical commodities, especially personal protective equipment (PPE), are available to those who appropriately need them, including health care workers, laboratory technicians, cleaning staff, burial personnel and others that may come in contact with infected persons or contaminated materials…

…ensure health care workers receive: adequate security measures for their safety and protection; timely payment of salaries and, as appropriate, hazard pay; and appropriate education and training on IPC, including the proper use of PPEs…

…ensure that: treatment centres and reliable diagnostic laboratories are situated as closely as possible to areas of transmission; that these facilities have adequate numbers of trained staff, and sufficient equipment and supplies relative to the caseload; that sufficient security is provided to ensure both the safety of staff…”

The unions are ready to mobilise their networks for this emergency effort. WHO calls on all actors, and we must ensure that governments include the workers and their unions at the planning stage, and during service delivery.

PSI calls on its unions, especially the members of the West African Health Sector Unions’ Network – WAHSUN to continue the work already started, which includes to :

  • Mobilise all unions in the region to raise awareness of EVD and appropriate behaviour to avoid contagion and to use medical services
  • Work with the various local, national and regional/global actors to ensure that all workers coming in contact with EVD are appropriately protected, including with training, tools and personal protective equipment (promote the hashtag #protecthealthworkers through social networks)
  • Assist our members and all workers to receive this equipment and ensure they have the necessary training and conditions to work safely
  • Work with national governments to ensure appropriate social protection systems are in place, including for the families of workers killed in the line of duty.

PSI will support our unions in the field by:

  • Contacting ILO to inform the appropriate offices of the working conditions of our members on the front lines and to seek immediate ILO support for remedial actions, as well as long term support for workers involved in disasters
  • Contacting other UN agencies and development partners (World Bank, African Development Bank, national development agencies) to ensure that they focus on the needs of the health workers and are aware of our strong union networks, ready to mobilise.
  • Contacting the media to spread our stories, to raise awareness of our sacrifices and of our willingness to help, and using the hashtag #protecthealthworkers
  • Working within the UN system to implement social protection systems, to protect workers and their families
  • Raising funds for the families of our members killed by EVD.

 

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