Prioritise healthcare workers' mental well-being, says Lee

MELAKA: The mental well-being of healthcare workers must be prioritised, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The Alliance for A Safe Community chairman said a study conducted by the Health Ministry's Institute for Health Behavioural Research in April 2020 discovered that 14.2% out of 6,616 healthcare workers surveyed in both public and private sectors suffered severe mental disorders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Therefore, there is a need to raise awareness of mental health issues, eliminate barriers to accessing care, identify workplace and community support for healthcare workers," he said in his opening speech during a training programme at a private hospital here recently.

When contacted on Wednesday (Sept 13), Lee said the survey also discovered that 24.7% of the healthcare workers lacked childcare support at home while 16.7% said they didn't receive sufficient moral support at work.

Lee said in today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, it's common to experience mental health and well-being issues such as stress and anxiety.

"It's the same for healthcare workers where work stress refers to detrimental physical and emotional effects arising when demands from job requirements are higher than a person's resources or abilities to cope.

"Stress can lead to poor physical and mental health if it goes unattended," he said.

Lee also noted that the healthcare industry is experiencing an acute workforce shortage.

This, he said, has caused many healthcare systems to be understaffed with long queues and patients getting frustrated.

"But how much emphasis is given to the remaining healthcare workers who must manage high patient volumes without getting adequate support?" he asked.

Lee said even before the Covid-19 pandemic, working conditions have always been difficult for healthcare professionals.

He said the medical industry constantly thrusts professionals into a maelstrom of emotions.

"Whether it's the relief of a successful treatment or the heartbreak of a patient's suffering, the emotional toll is undeniable," he said.

Lee added that the stress faced by healthcare workers was evident when a psychosocial support helpline service established between government agencies and Mercy Malaysia saw nearly 8% of 223,990 total calls received from frontline healthcare workers from March 25, 2020, to Sept 19, 2021.

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