Why Are Healthcare Workers Still Dying of Covid-19?
Around the world, many don’t have access to a vaccine. That’s scandalous.
My heart sank when I heard Romeo “Romy” Agtarap died of Covid-19. He had recently retired from nursing after two decades in the emergency room. But when Covid-19 surged into New York City last spring he joined us again on the frontlines. In April 2020, the virus that brought Romy out of retirement took his life.
Over 115,000 health care workers around the world have died from Covid-19. We must make sure no more fall victim to this virus. That should be easy, as vaccines provide near-perfect protection against severe disease and death from Covid.
That’s why we should immediately ensure every health care worker around the world has access to a Covid-19 vaccine. Sadly, that isn’t happening.
Globally there are approximately 59 million health care workers. This includes both the doctors and nurses who treat patients as well as the laboratory technicians, pharmacists, and other professionals indirectly involved in patient care.
It’s impossible to overstate the impact of losing 115,000 health care workers. That’s the equivalent of losing all the doctors in California, the state with the most physicians. And it’s more than the number of active nurses in each of 42 U.S. states.
For health systems already buckling under the weight of Covid-19, the death of a single health care worker presents immediate challenges. Their surviving colleagues — exhausted and traumatized — will undoubtedly wonder “Am I next?” And fewer providers means patients will receive lower quality care.
In the first year of the pandemic, Covid took the lives of 3,600 health care workers in the U.S. The death toll among providers has now shifted to countries hardest hit by Covid-19.
This risk to providers working on the frontlines isn’t new. But the unprecedented scale of the pandemic made it harder for health care workers to access the supplies needed to safely do our job. This was…