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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Concerns mount as medical workers suffer pandemic burnout

  • Alya Nurbaiti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, September 5, 2020   /   12:43 pm
COVID-19: Concerns mount as medical workers suffer pandemic burnout Petugas kesehatan berisitrahat di sela-sela Rapid Test COVID-19 di Taman Balai Kota Bandung, Jawa Barat, Sabtu (4/4/2020). Sedikitnya 700 warga Kota Bandung mengikuti Rapid Test tersebut guna memastikan kesehatannya dan mengantisipasi penyebaran COVID-19 di Bandung. (Antara/Novrian Arbi)

As Indonesia strives to get on top of the ever-climbing number of COVID-19 cases, 82 percent of physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers across the country have been suffering from moderate levels of burnout and chronic mental and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress, a recent survey has revealed.

Experts have said the number is concerning and that health workers are in dire need of help, as burnout can affect their well-being and job performance.

“We have to be more vigilant, as many health workers are already experiencing moderate burnout. Once it gets severe, it will be more difficult to treat,” dean of the University of Indonesia’s (UI) School of Medicine Ari Fahrial Syam said on Friday.

The online survey, conducted by a research team from UI’s School of Medicine from June to August this year, involved 1,461 medical workers comprising doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives, laboratory analysts and pharmacists aged 18 to 63 years in 34 provinces.

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The majority of respondents (82 percent) reported moderate levels of burnout according to the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which assesses emotional exhaustion, responses toward service, care and instruction and feelings of competence and successful achievement at work. Meanwhile, only 17 percent reported mild burnout and 1 percent experienced severe burnout. The survey also revealed that the risk of suffering from burnout increased by 1.39 to 1.66 times among general physicians and healthcare workers who handle COVID-19 patients.

“Among the symptoms of burnout are feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained, the loss of empathy and reduced self-confidence, as well as physical symptoms such as feeling lethargic,” head of UI’s research team Dewi Soemarko told The Jakarta Post.

Dewi said that burnout among medical workers was caused by increased workloads and uncertainty during the pandemic. Almost 50 percent of respondents said they had not experienced changes or reductions in working hours during the pandemic, while 74.53 percent said the health facility where they worked did not carry out routine swab tests.

Indeed, the burden on healthcare workers is shown by the bed occupancy rates in isolation rooms and intensive care units (ICUs), which National COVID-19 task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito described as “no longer ideal”.

Health Ministry data show the spike in occupancy rates, with Bali reporting a 72.55 percent occupancy rate on Monday, followed by Jakarta (67.25 percent), East Kalimantan (55.62 percent), Central Java (49.3 percent), Banten (49.3 percent) and East Java (49 percent).

Moreover, at least 104 doctors have died of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) reported. Nine dentists have also died of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to the IDI. The Indonesian Nurses Association (PPNI), meanwhile, said 70 nurses had died of the disease as of Monday.

Dewi said that healthcare professionals should be aware that they were prone to burnout.

“They also have to know the symptoms so that they can immediately seek help and prevent the burnout from getting worse,” she said.

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The research team also advised hospitals and other health facilities to ensure there was adequate infrastructure for handling COVID-19 patients, and to set up work schedules that took into account the well-being of health workers, in addition to providing psychosocial assistance. Meanwhile, the government is expected to monitor medical workers to detect signs of burnout as early as possible, so that timely treatment can be provided.

“The Health Ministry must educate health facilities to pay attention to burnout issues and facilitate psychological counseling services,” Dewi said.

Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said on Wednesday that the government had done its best to protect medical workers, citing the provision of protective gear as part of the support it had provided.

“We have worked hard to give support to medical workers, so that they can perform their duties well, and especially for them to be safe from the COVID-19 threat,” he said.

The government is also struggling with the provision of financial incentives, with progress moving at a snail’s pace. The central government has set aside Rp 5.9 trillion (US$396 million) for incentives for 78,472 health workers, but as of June 29, only Rp 226 billion has been disbursed to 25,311 health workers.