“Let’s take care of our carers!” How often have we read or heard these words with reference to healthcare professionals? It is a good sentiment, but how can it be fulfilled in light of the complexities of patients’ illnesses, ever-growing healthcare teams and financial realities? Adequate remuneration for staff and the creation of a decent, uplifting environment are all well and good, but are insufficient. 

We know that many care workers experience a great deal of stress and are overburdened with work, so much so that the environment and working conditions are affecting their work satisfaction. Some consider leaving and looking for alternative work.  This can affect the quality of care provided to patients. 

Malta is not spared this reality. 

A new report published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows that investment in the healthcare economy needs to double if a world crisis in healthcare is to be avoided. 

Healthcare is important for people’s welfare and the economy. We are, however, moving towards a world crisis in healthcare because there are not enough workers to take care of people in need. It is said that jobs in healthcare generally do not pay. 

In 2015, 2.1 billion children, elderly people and people with special needs needed healthcare. By 2030, this figure is expected to rise by 200 million people. At present there are 381 million care workers caring for these vulnerable people. Tens of thousands of workers are doing unpaid and unrecognised work in the healthcare sector. If we were to quantify this work, it would come out as equivalent to 2 billion people working eight hours a day without pay. Three quarters of this unpaid care work is done by women. 

During this year, 606 million women could not work with pay because healthcare work is not paid. Notwithstanding, the ILO report states that 70% of women prefer to be paid for the work they do and many men are increasing their contribution to the healthcare sector. 

To avoid a world crisis and reach sustainable development targets, the ILO is calling for extensive changes to policies so that care work is recognised, lessened and redistributed.  The ILO is also asking for the investment in the healthcare economy to be doubled. This can lead to the creation of 269 million new jobs and the provision of decent work for all care workers, including those care workers who work in community homes.