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Guest Viewpoints

Excessive Personnel in Healthcare and How to Handle It in the Post-COVID-Era

May 20, 2021
By Eleftheria Petropoulou

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic and the lights at the end of the tunnel are apparent for Greece. Two years in which the Greek national healthcare system, like others around the globe, stretched its potentials beyond extremes utilizing sources and disseminating knowledge beyond borders in an effort to minimize casualties and manage effectively and efficiently the human scientific and assistive personnel. Two years during which nurses, doctors, some social, administrative, and environmental service providers were called upon to support fighting for people’s lives. Temporarily.

In an already tired workforce, especially inside public hospitals, and the verification that primary healthcare and e-health are great embankments of patients’ influx in hospitals, that personnel has been paid to be educated, gain experience, is now adequate to fight more crises, it has inspired upcoming generations to study in similar majors and fields, and finally, morally deserves to feel secure in a stable working position.

As people globally focus on maintaining their healthcare status and taking examples from previous hygienic crises, healthcare personnel will never be “too many.” Rather the great diversification of specialties, the advancement of e-health and primary care, the avoidance of interpersonal contact, as well as the approaches of the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs on standardizing the number of new entrants in public universities will create a controllable workforce, with dynamics that will continue to come in handy as the healthcare sector is a domain that will recover and flourish after the pandemic. Yet, with an increase in nursing and clinicians’ higher turnover, due to the exhaustion from the pandemic, standardizing the employed healthcare personnel is critical. It is rather important to consider that according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), its member-states are placed in the middle of global rankings regarding practicing nurses per 100,000 citizens, and Greece lies even further behind than those numbers, having its total nursing personnel cut after the fiscal crisis of 2009. And the numbers do not even include nurses employed in other settings, such as nursing homes or creative employment centers for children or individuals with special needs. In fact, it would be interesting to see documents coming in from such institutions on the numbers of practicing nurses and physicians, as well as their exact task lists.

Community nursing and primary care are more than a bibliographical trend; they are tools for ensuring good health practices, educating young children and populations, observing and overseeing health trends and vaccinations in communities, monitoring, and protecting those with chronic diseases, and finally, ensuring trusted data additions in a panhellenic software system. Thus, the Hellenic National Public Health Organization’s work will be easier and more structured, as those professionals could be its data collectors, and, at last, updated statistics would be available for our country. And as healthcare workers’ unions have started to lose their power and we, at last, move towards an era of unified management in which outcomes are quantifiable, cross-training of nurses comes to be of paramount importance. Even if Regional Governments take over healthcare management, the personnel will be already educated and trained in skills appropriate to cope both in peace and during crises.

Excessive personnel will never be the case in healthcare anymore. Just higher specialization and some final decision-making regarding healthcare management in Greece need to be conducted. And as the pandemic comes to its closure, and because projections have it that many more are to come, epidemics, mostly, we need to be prepared. As we include in our state budget stress tests for the banking sector and military exercises, we ought to own a global paradigm of a healthcare workforce, young and older, with more or less experience, yet multidisciplinary qualified. Those, currently temporary professionals, will boost our national immunity to external healthcare threats deriving from refugee waves or other potential biological threats while increasing the opportunities of our country to become a safe and top destination for health tourism and healthcare investing, either new or in terms of public-private-partnering methods. Because, let's be honest; in good coordination, an entrepreneurial mindset, and a visionary and disruptive thinking manner, both capitalist and solidarity economies can coexist.

Eleftheria V. Petropoulou, R.N., B.S.N., MSc(c), is the Head of Nursing Services N.H.-B.U. Agapis Melathron-St. Charalambos in Aigio. She is also a Postgraduate Scholar of the Public Benefit Foundation I.S. Latsis in the Social Politics Program of the University of Peloponnese.

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