Impact of an epidemic on an institution’s work environment.
“Specific diseases are more or less repeated, the epidemic never entirely.”– Michel Foucault
The world is facing a public health crisis that ruins everyone’s mental health, threatens lives and damages economies. Knowing the facts is the first step on the path to creating hope for a better future.
Pandemics, especially those where we have no knowledge about them, have the population’s panic as a common characteristic, either due to the lack of knowledge or the speed at which information is spread. Most of this information addresses theories without any scientific basis, and many are false, the so-called “fake News”. This avalanche of conflicting information puts an emotional burden on any human being.
When we analyze the world historical context, we can see that major epidemics and pandemics have claimed more fatal victims than the 1st and 2nd World Wars. In 1918 the flu pandemic, in just over two years, infected more than half a billion people. Cholera, in its fourth pandemic (1863-1875), was catastrophic, reaching 360,000 deaths in India and 450,000 in Europe. In 2009 there was an epidemic caused by the H1N1 virus, and now we are facing the pandemic by COVID-19, an infection caused by the coronavirus.
In the health system, regardless of the country in question, the answer can be tragic since the structure is not prepared and often cannot adapt in time to receive such a patient demand at the same time. Professionals involved in health care can develop anxiety disorders alongside their professional colleagues and family members, which ends up exposing everyone to a situation of stress, exhaustion, isolation, and depression.
According to data from the World Health Organization – WHO, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, depression and anxiety are estimated to cost the global economy something around US $ 1 trillion a year. Thus, in these difficult times, leaders must be prepared to support the physical and especially mental health of their employees and staff. It is necessary to address the problem, recognize its challenges and implement actions in order to help everyone (example: during the dissemination of COVID-19, the work teams in China and Italy moved away from their families and reported loneliness, self-isolation or anxiety ).
In the immediate control of the crisis, planning is essential to transform despair and panic into controlled chaos, in which contingency plans and uncertainty management must lead to a rational program for coping. Pandemics can not only disrupt an organization, and compromise a company’s long-term viability, but they also hamper the provision of critical functions.
The business risks analysis should guide the practice of “Emergency and Disaster Preparedness ” and should bring recommendations and controls for a contingency plan, in order to reduce impacts caused by the large number of assistance, since it is extremely important that rapid response measures are adopted. Organizations must have efficient management, concern for their employees and directing and providing resources for the different hospital structures.
During the epidemic, the disease not only concretely changes its epidemiological and clinical expression. It also starts to be perceived and faced differently by society. Even in the face of the complex tangle of social determinations, health service interventions must promise results. The task and the role of the health area, with its technological arsenal and its strategies for the universalization of actions, is paramount in this context.
The professional practice environment is affected by the presence of organizational characteristics in the work environment that facilitate or hinder professionals to develop their practice, especially regarding collaborative work. “Hospital organizations are complex systems composed of different departments and professions, making them mainly an organization of people faced with emotionally intense situations, such as life, illness and death, which cause anxiety and physical and mental tension.”
Several authors have identified specific stress agents related to adverse reactions to work in the hospital environment: work overload, job insecurity, ambiguity of roles, work in unknown domains, serving a population that experiences anxiety and fear, responsibility for other people, underutilization capacities, inadequate resources, technological changes, among other aspects.
Depending on the severity and extent of an event, it becomes impossible to act with the fullness of the necessary conditions in force. “Looking at it from the perspective of medicine, a calamity is characterized by an acute, sudden, abrupt situation, where the demand for resources is insufficient to guarantee medical support” (Donalisio 1995). The importance of ethical, bioethical values and possible solutions for the control of various situations of conflict must always be considered. (Wells et al, 2020)
The lack of psychological skills to deal with such demands can increase contact stress between healthcare professionals and patients. This issue is mentioned by doctors and nursing professionals as a source of great stress. Coping with epidemic situations leads to a reflection on the importance of technical and humanistic training for health professionals based on ethical commitment to their profession and the population.
What we are going through at the moment, with the pandemic of COVID – 19, suggests that we neglect management, leaving the fundamentals and learning from crises, which we have already gone through, and with that, we stop innovating in possible solutions.
The world was showing signs that it was time to reflect overall. It was necessary to act in a more strategic, sustainable and transformative way, looking at all stakeholders, analyzing the processes and preparing to adapt them, proactively, based on the lessons learned and the realities and trends of the new scenarios, seeking economic results, social and environmental issues in a balanced way.
Now, the time has come to innovate, not in business models aimed solely at profit, but in management, looking for alternatives on how to survive in scarcity, how to distribute what exists, and collectively.
Management tools are available and widely known. It is a matter of joining forces, devoid of individual vanities and political ideologies, taking advantage of the lessons learned with humility, without seeking culprits, and acting. The only way out of this situation is for everyone to assume their role as a transformational leader, all engaged for a greater cause – people’s well-being.