Health policies must be based on evidence-based facts to have significant impacts on population health. This discussion analyses the proposed COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020. This policy required the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect health workers from exposure to the coronavirus that causes the occurrence of COVID-19. The policy was expected to protect healthcare workers and other workers considered to be at high risk for SAR-CoV-2 exposure (Congress.gov, 2020). The policy would ensure protection for healthcare workers in the private and public sectors. The policy would not only provide a temporary standard for the protection of workers during the COVID-19 epidemic but also provide a permanent measure for the long-term protection of healthcare providers from COVID-19.
The main socio-determinant of health influencing the policy is the physical environment of healthcare workers. According to Razvi et al. (2020), healthcare workers have a high COVID-19 infection because they are constantly exposed to patients with the infection. The disease can easily spread from one individual to another through behaviors such as sneezing, coughing, touching contaminated surfaces, being in crowded environments, and poor hand hygiene. While they are in their line of work, they are likely to get contact with the coronavirus in one way or another hence predisposing them to the serious effects of the disease and even death. The fact that healthcare workers spend a lot of time working in a high-risk environment with biohazard exposure increases their chances of contracting the disease at higher rates compared to the general population. For that reason, the healthcare providers ‘physical environment largely influenced the policy and measures must be put in place as recommended by the COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020 to protect the healthcare workers population.
There is sufficient evidence base to support the proposed policy. Razvi et al.(2020) explored the extent of exposure of hospital-based healthcare workers to COVID-19.It was found that the percentage of healthcare workers who tested positive for the coronavirus was significantly higher (19.4%) than the general population (6.8%). The healthcare workers (HCWs) without direct patient management roles also had a high positivity rate of the virus(12.3%) compared to the general population. For that reason, it was recommended that all HCWs should be provided with adequate personal protection equipment (PPEs) to protect them from contracting the virus while on their line of duty. Atnafie et al. (2021) also acknowledged that frontline healthcare workers are directly exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic and hence are highly exposed to its infection. Poor COVID-19 prevention measures among HCWs could lead to increased exposure to the disease, delayed identification, and treatment of the disease hence a rapid spread of the disease to the HCWs. It was also found that there was poor adherence to PPEs among the HCWs and aseptic healthcare practices among the HCWs. Atnafie et al. (2021) recommended the implementation of sustainable and effective measures to protect high-risk HCWs from COVID-19 infection. Although the proposed Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020 was not passed into law, it had a sufficient evidence base indicating the significant exposure of HCWs to COVID-19 compared to the general population hence the need to put in place standard measures to protect them from the virus both in the short-term and in the long-term.
Atnafie, S. A., Anteneh, D. A., Yimenu, D. K., & Kifle, Z. D. (2021). Assessment of exposure risks to COVID-19 among frontline health care workers in Amhara Region, Ethiopia: A cross-sectional survey. Plos one, 16(4), e0251000.
Congress.gov. (2020). Legislation. All Information (Except Text) for H.R.6139 – COVID–19 Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th- congress/house-bill/6139/all-info
Razvi, S., Oliver, R., Moore, J., & Beeby, A. (2020). Exposure of hospital healthcare workers to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Clinical Medicine, 20(6), e238.