24 March 2020
As health systems are facing the biggest health crisis in a century, countries are scrambling to find effective policies to combat the spread of the COVID-19 disease. The dramatic situations across OECD countries created by the pandemic if any show the crucial need for well-funded public health care systems with universal access for all.
In a policy brief, the OECD looks into to the different policy response and presents an overview of key measures taking by health systems.
The policy brief, “Beyond Containment: Health systems responses to COVID-19 in the OECD” presents a list of policies taking by countries aimed at providing effective care and managing the pressure on health systems. The policy brief finds four key measures that health systems are putting in place in response to the epidemic:
The OECD brief underlines that containment and mitigation policies are essential for health care systems to lower the peak in demand for care and reverse the flow of the COVID-19 epidemic. However, as the OECD also notes containment measures are not enough.
The dramatic situations across OECD countries created by the pandemic if any show the crucial need for well-funded public health care systems with universal access for all. The current lack of hospital beds and intensive care units in many countries demonstrates the consequences of years´ of public austerity measures in OECD countries. In the EU, almost all countries have decreased the number of hospital beds per capita between 2000 and 2017. In Italy, which is currently facing an extreme pressure on their hospitals, the ratio decreased by about 30 % to 3.2 beds per 1,000 population, well below the EU average.[i] As such, there is an urgent need to strengthen investment in the public health system including facilities, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPEs) and staff.
The current pandemic presents an acute occupational hazard to health care workers. Health care workers are at the frontline of the fight against the COVID-19 and therefore finds themselves especially exposed to virus risks. The OECD notes the importance of protecting health care workers in order to boost and optimise staff capacity in the health sector. In this regard, the TUAC finds it appropriate to call on governments to support and protect health care workers. Governments must take all necessary steps to address the working environment and occupational health and safety of health care and other frontline workers (e.g. transport workers). Such steps should include, but not be limited to:
All policy responses must respect relevant ILO Conventions, and ensure that trade union and labour rights are a central element in the response to the COVID-19.
Find the OECD Policy brief “Beyond Containment: Health systems responses to COVID-19 in the OECD” – here.
Find the TUAC Briefing on the Coronavirus Crisis: Origins, Development and Policy Response – here.
For further on trade union/social partner responses to the COVID-19 crises please visit: Covid19 crisis: Mapping out trade union and social partners’ responses – here.
[i] OECD/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (2019), Italy: Country Health Profile 2019, State of Health in the EU, OECD Publishing, Paris/European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, Brussels https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/cef1e5cben.pdf?expires=1584879160&id=id&accname=ocid84004878&checksum=068B82F35A1CABD0D4FE38 6C0A012B4E xxvii FSB letter