COVID-19 crisis showed that it is time to change direction and reconsider our EU health systems!

COVID-19 crisis showed that it is time to change direction and reconsider our EU health systems!

Posted on May 27, 2020

As the health community marks the World Multiple Sclerosis Day, the EFN participated in two important webinars on chronic diseases and COVID-19, and on mental health protection in times of pandemic. Both webinars, brought together media, politicians, policymakers, healthcare professionals, patients and civil society to discuss how to prepare healthcare systems to avoid a vicious circle for chronic patients and in mental health and well-being during and in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.

As MEP Tilly Metz said during the chronic diseases event “we need to have new strategies to protect the healthcare professionals, including the nurses, in times of crisis and learn the right lessons for them to be better prepared and trained in the future, putting the right money at the right place. If we don’t protect them, this will be a fail for the EU Healthcare system”. This COVID-19 crisis showed how our healthcare systems in the EU are vulnerable, and the healthcare professionals cannot be the victims of even more austerity plans. Tarun Dua, from WHO, explained that this crisis has shown global solidarity and coherence in the response of COVID-19. Therefore, it is key to take on this solidarity movement and make sure there is more collaboration and cooperation at EU and Member States levels, next to more human & financial resources, to be better prepared for a next pandemic/crisis.

However, healthcare professionals have been placed under exceptional stress by the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting their mental health and well-being. More than ever, it is crucial to keep our healthcare professionals, and in particular the nurses, protected from chronic stress and poor mental health, so they have a better capacity to fulfil their vital roles in fighting the outbreak and saving lives during this crisis. Heavy workloads, life-or-death decisions, and risk of infection are sources of stress for all of them. Ensuring their well-being and mental health is key to sustain COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery. If we do not take actions, we risk not being prepared for the next crisis. To make sure this is not happening again, it is important to explore self-help interventions and preventive measures for reducing psychological distress in times of crisis, see how we can protect their mental health and well-being after it, and appropriate support services should be integrated into every component of national responses to COVID-19.

Therefore, to make sure we will always be prepared for any crisis, it is crucial to foster the co-creation and co-design with frontline healthcare professionals, and in particular nurses – the biggest group of the healthcare professionals, of political decision-making processes concerning IDHC preparedness, protocols, training, and selection of appropriate materials; to work closely with the nursing profession to develop policies that protect the nurses from unnecessarily difficult or unsafe working conditions, particularly when caring with COVID-19 patients; and to ensure appropriate mechanisms for psychological care of nurses experiencing extreme stress during the crisis, and post factum, to prevent and treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

We will not be prepared UNLESS we will all be prepared!