The challenge of possible burnout among doctors and other healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic “absolutely is a very important factor especially if this crisis is protracted,” Dr Colm Henry, HSE Chief Clinical Officer, told a HSE media briefing today (March 13) in Dr Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin.
Answering questions posed by the Medical Independent (MI) on doctor burnout, Dr Henry noted that “doctors will be using their best judgment to work in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings, in different settings than they are usually accustomed to and trained to do”.
He also noted that the HSE had contacted “the medical schools yesterday to bring final year exams forward…we want to get students qualified and out there. To complete their medical exams and start working.”
He said there is work going on “right across the spectrum with training, redeployment [of] doctors and nurses working and receiving rapid training [regarding] the virus.”
Also answering MI’s question Ms Anne O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer of the HSE, said the Executive was “prioritising” resources in relation to rostering .
“So assigning what the essential services are and prioritising our resources to those who are in the highest level of need. What that means in real terms is that we are using our most specialist staff for our sickest people, and we are redeploying workers in other ways. So for example we are trying to ensure that we can free up people really to avoid what you are describing (burnout).
“So we know that pressure is significant, and we know that this is not something that is going to pass by, by this weekend or next week.
“Resilience among our staff is an absolute priority for us. So what we are saying again is hospitals, Hospital Groups, community health organisations all of whom manage their staff on a daily basis, they are working collectively to ensure that the deployment of staff matches the highest level of need.
“At a certain level nationally we are engaging with various representative bodies and our HR function in the HSE is doing a huge amount of work on that on a national level. But ultimately we are going to be relying on services, on line managers, on cross service collaboration within a national framework. We will agree a certain number of things nationally to be implemented locally.”
During his presentation to the briefing, Mr Paul Reid, HSE Chief Executive, said :“Firstly we ourselves in the HSE are putting in place all flexibility measures that we can to support rostering and scheduling of staff and to be fair and to make sure to have the right balance between keeping the services going and being flexible for peoples’ home demands, child care demands in particular.
“Secondly we are urging the community to really come together and mobilise in support of our healthcare workers in terms of getting [them] to work, and in terms of child minding. I am making a particular plea to corporate operations. So if a health worker’s wife or husband is at work in the corporate organisation I would urge those corporate organisations to show all the flexibility that they can, so that a person working in the corporate world can work from home and we can get our healthcare workers to work.”
As of Friday 13 March, there were 90 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic.