Health Ministry survey shows high number of health workers suffering from serious burnout

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Healthcare workers collect swab samples to test for Covid-19 in Shah Alam June 24, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Healthcare workers collect swab samples to test for Covid-19 in Shah Alam June 24, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — Exhaustion from long working hours and pandemic fatigue have caused a high number of health workers to suffer from severe burnout, the Ministry of Health said today amid concerns about the mental health of its staff as they cope with the Covid-19 outbreak.

The revelation followed a survey the ministry conducted on 893 health workers recently to look for signs of burnout, and if respondents felt they had adequate psychosocial support, most replied no.

The ministry said over half of the respondents reported personal-related burnout, another 39.1 per cent reported work-related burnout while 17.4 per cent suffered from patient-related burnout.

Personal-related burnout was found to be highest among state health workers and pharmacists, the study found.

For work-related burnout, it was highest among local assistant medical officers (PKPP) and the third burnout category was highest among paramedic and private health workers.

“Most of them felt that they’re not getting enough psychosocial support at work,” the ministry said in a statement.

The most common factors causing the burnout were found to be high work pressure, uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last, shifts and adaptations for constantly changing standard operating procedures, disrupted career plans and problems balancing life and work.

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress, according to the website Psychology Today.

Experts said the condition mostly stems from problems at work but is not limited to it. It can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking or even problematic relationships.

The ministry said it’s now conducting regular mental health screenings to try and identify signs of burnout quickly, as one of measures to deal with the rise in mental health strain among its staff.

To avoid exhaustion, health workers will be given unrecorded leave to rest or put on rotational shifts.

The sharp surge in daily Covid-19 cases over the last few months has again stretched the public health system, pushing its limited number of workers to work around the clock in a bid to contain the disease.

The ministry said it will deploy a Psychological First Aid (PFA) to those showing early signs of burnout or depression and provide counselling.

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