At least 90,000 healthcare workers worldwide are believed to have been infected with COVID-19, and possibly twice that, amid reports of continuing shortages of protective equipment, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) said.
The disease has killed more than 260 nurses, it said in a statement, urging authorities to keep more accurate records to help prevent the virus from spreading among staff and patients.
“ICN has gathered further information from its member National Nursing Associations (NNAs, some official government figures, and media reports), which suggest that at least 90,000 healthcare workers have been infected, and more than 260 nurses have died,” the ICN’s statement reads.
“Thousands of nurses have been infected with COVID-19 and hundreds have already died, but governments cannot say exactly how many because they are not collecting the data. This lack of accurate data has led to a serious underestimation of the infection rate among nurses, and the number of deaths,” it added.
ICN says this failure to record both infection rates and deaths among healthcare workers is putting more nurses and their patients in danger.
ICN is calling for data on healthcare worker infections and deaths to be systematically collected by national governments and held centrally at the WHO. Such a move would show respect to the nurses who have given their lives, but also inform prevention strategies, such as addressing fundamental issues, including testing and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The lack of official data on infections and deaths among nurses and other healthcare workers is scandalous. Nurses and healthcare workers have been put at greater risk because of the lack of PPE and poor preparedness for this pandemic. As a result, we have seen infection rates and, tragically, deaths rise on a daily basis. Governments’ failure to collect this information in a consistent way means we do not have the data that would add to the science that could improve infection control and prevention measures and save the lives of other healthcare workers,” ICN Chief Executive Officer Howard Catton said.
“If governments fail to act on this, I fear we may look back on this pandemic and count the dead among our nursing colleagues in the thousands.” he added.