Soosmita Sinha is the Founder and President of the Health Law Institute (HLI), Geneva, Switzerland, and a board member of the International Network for Health Workforce Educators (INHWE). She holds a pharmacy degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria and a JD from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA and is currently licensed as both a pharmacist and lawyer in Michigan, USA. Her professional experience spans both public and private sectors in different geographical locations – Nigeria, United States and the United Nations in Geneva. She has lived in four different continents, speaks multiple languages and is passionate about health worker rights, universal access to healthcare, and advocates health workers as key actors in health system strengthening. In her spare time, she coaches startups and enjoys mentoring younger professionals. #Dignity4HW #HW4HSS
COVID-19 and Gender Issues – The case of older health workers
Soosmita Sinha, Health Law Institute, United States
The global health workforce combatting Covid-19 consists of more than 70% of women working at the frontline and a high number of older workers. WHO estimates that in Europe 36% of health workers are aged 55 years and more; in the USA, 42 % of physicians are estimated to be 55 years and older (AMA 2015).
The Covid-19 crisis, in addition to the havoc it has created in the general population, has ravaged a health workforce suffering from severe shortages. They include understaffing, lack of safe and decent work conditions, such as personal protective equipment shortages, inadequate essential hygiene products, excessive working hours, low or no wages, lack of sick leave and breaks. These deficiencies have led to very high infection and mortality rates of health workers, mainly women, compared to the general population. In addition, gender and age discrimination is often impacting on the physical and mental health and undermine addressing the pandemic effectively. The stress for the many female health workers combatting Covid-19 is further worsened by the growing need for unpaid care during the pandemic as they need to fill in as care workers for their own family members. As a result, the disregard of core labor standards and human rights have left older female health workers most vulnerable.
This Symposium will assess legal, institutional, and societal structures resulting in adverse impacts on older women health workers, and deliberate practices for an enabling environment and resilient workforce. It will also provide a platform to discuss needed innovation and change in the context of the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030. The results will nourish the Call for action of the 15th IFA Conference on Ageing.
Key issues to be addressed include the role of older health workers as victims and vectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, their paid and unpaid work as part of COVID-19 high risk groups, the burden of work and working conditions as well as rights at the Covid-19 frontline, such as social protection, quarantine and paid sick leave. These issues will be discussed with a view to creating an enabling working environment that is free of stigmatization, discrimination, abuse and harassment.
The Symposium will be moderated by the IFA Secretary General, Jane Barratt, and include a keynote by the President of the Health Law Institute, Soosmita Sinha. A panel and open discussion will reflect views from various perspectives and regions.