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Health care worker strikes and the Covid pandemic

Health care worker strikes and the Covid pandemic

Essex, Ryan ORCID: 0000-0003-3497-3137 and Weldon, Sharon M. ORCID: 0000-0001-5487-5265 (2021) Health care worker strikes and the Covid pandemic. New England Journal of Medicine, 384:e93. ISSN 0028-4793 (Print), 1533-4406 (Online) (doi:

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Despite having been warned for decades, many countries were unprepared for the Covid-19 pandemic. Though some have managed to contain the virus, in most countries, the pandemic response has been poor at best; in some countries, it’s been disastrous. As of mid-March 2021, nearly 2.7 million deaths had been attributed to SARS-CoV-2, and many more aspects of the health and social impact are likely to come to light over the long term. Though there are no official global figures, among the casualties are likely to be tens of thousands of health care and other frontline workers; in late 2020, Amnesty International estimated that more than 7000 health care workers had died from Covid. Beyond risking their lives, such workers have had a challenging year, to put it mildly. Many continue to work in underresourced systems, with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), dealing with a situation that was both unprecedented and completely foreseeable.

While the heroics of health care workers have been celebrated and we’ve gained a renewed appreciation of the risks that many frontline workers face while providing fundamental services, less attention has been paid to those who have refused to work under such dangerous conditions and those who have pointed out that no health care workers needed to be placed at such high risk. Many have rightly argued that heroics were required only because of government neglect, underfunding, and lack of preparation for a pandemic that we knew was coming. Many workers are justifiably angry. Although there are no official figures, Covid-19 appears to have led to a substantial uptick in strike actions by health care workers.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: strike; covid; healthcare; health worker
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Department of Adult Nursing & Paramedic Science
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Institute for Lifecourse Development
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Institute for Lifecourse Development > Centre for Professional Workforce Development
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2021 08:27
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None

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