TORONTO – The head of the Toronto Heart Center urges immediate support for overworked doctors, nurses and other health-care workers, describing their risk of burnout as a “public health crisis”.
Dr Barry Robin, president and medical director of the Peter Monk Heart Center at the University Health Network, says surveys conducted at the Cardiovascular Center before the pandemic found 78 percent of nurses, 65 percent of doctors, and 73 percent of other health prescribing staff. Feelings of fatigue.
The surveys were conducted between November 27, 2018 and January 31, 2019 and have not taken into account the potential impact of COVID-19 on employees since then.
But UHN’s general psychiatrist said there was no doubt that the epidemic had increased feelings of fatigue, stress and depression for many healthcare workers.
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“COVID exacerbated a problem that was already there,” said Dr. Susan Abbey of the findings, published Tuesday in the Canadian Open Medical Association Journal.
“Everyone is struggling on the front line.”
The UHN study surveyed 414 physicians, nurses, and auxiliary personnel including physical, respiratory and occupational therapists, social workers, and speech-language pathologists.
Burnout can include job dissatisfaction, job turnover, decreased quality of life, and thoughts of suicide.
Robin said it also impacts care.
“It is associated with increased incidence of medical errors, serious safety incidents, re-admissions, worse patient outcomes, and in some cases increased patient deaths,” Robin said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Medical fatigue is a public health crisis that we must address now.”
The warnings come as new data suggest Ontario’s health system will be overwhelmed unless the wave of winter infections is contained.
Research has found that stress and anxiety escalate for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Regional modeling indicates that there could be around 500 patients with COVID-19 in intensive care by mid-January as the number of free beds dwindles, and that deaths could double to 100 per day by the end of February under current restrictions.
Officials warn that this will increase pressure on health care workers in the coming weeks.
Dr Dominic Daisy, of the Yamaska Area Association of General Practitioners called on the general public to adhere to public health rules, acknowledging that many people are emotionally drained by the constant calls for vigil.
“They are tired. It’s been too long, and they want to live the life they want … I understood it, we understood it,” said Daisy.
“But the narrow angle of this epidemic will be in the end (when hospitals are forced) to pick and choose who will remain on the respirator or not. And no one wants to get there.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press