Age warning for healthcare workers: ‘It’s a ticking time bomb’

Forty percent of doctors in a third of European and Asian countries are on the verge of retirement, according to a new report from the World Health Organization

Forty percent of doctors are approaching retirement age in a third of countries in Europe and Central Asia, according to a new report released by the Europe regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO). Specifically, 13 of the 44 countries that provided data report that 40% of their health professionals are over the age of 55. “The aging of the health and care workforce was a serious problem before the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is even more worrying today, with high attrition and demographic factors contributing to a shrinking workforce. work,” the WHO said.

Adequate replacement of retiring doctors and other health and care workers should be a “major political concern” for governments and health authorities in the years to come, the UN agency said.

The report also noted that long working hours, “inadequate” professional support, “serious shortages” of staff and high rates of Covid-19 infection and death among healthcare workers, especially during the early stages of the pandemic, affected the sector.

The WHO estimates that around 50,000 healthcare workers have died from the coronavirus in Europe. “All of these threats represent a ticking time bomb which, if left untreated, is likely to lead to poor health outcomes in all areas, long waiting times for treatment, many preventable deaths and, potentially, the collapse of the health system. Now is the time to act on the shortage of health and care workers,” said Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

Mental health problems

Absenteeism among healthcare workers increased by 62% amid the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, and mental health problems were reported in almost all European countries. And more than 80% of nurses admitted to having some sort of psychological problem caused by the pandemic health crisis.

While the 53 countries in Europe have, on average, the highest availability of doctors, nurses and midwives compared to other WHO regions, countries in Europe and Central Asia are still face “substantial shortages and gaps”, with significant sub-regional variations, the report notes. . According to the latest available data for 2022, Europe has an average of 80 nurses and 37 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants.