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Our research on the needs of women health workers in the COVID-19 pandemic is out!

“The Research on Specialized Needs of Women Health Workers in the COVID-19 Pandemic” conducted by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA Turkey and Hacettepe University Women's Research and Implementation Center (HUWRIC) has been released. The research draws attention to the experiences and needs of women health workers, which constitute 70% of the health workers globally, during the pandemic.

ANKARA - Constituting 70% of all health workers globally and 56% of those in Turkey, women health workers are at the frontline during the pandemic as well. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made life difficult for women with increased responsibilities both at work and home, it has caused women's specialized needs to remain even more behind.

“The Research on Specialized Needs of Women Health Workers in the COVID-19 Pandemic” conducted by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA Turkey and Hacettepe University Women's Research and Implementation Center (HUWRIC) aims to reveal the experiences of women health workers and increase the awareness of their needs during the pandemic. In the research, the data collected through electronic surveys from 1082 women health workers working in different provinces of Turkey in varying units at different positions has been analyzed with gender equality perspective. Among the participants, 48% have been working in COVID-19 units and 28% of them were diagnosed with COVID-19. 

While 4 out of every 10 women health workers (38%) participating in the study stated that they work for average 41 hours or more per week, it has been found that most of those who work with such intense schedule work in COVID-19 units. According to the research, 62% of those working in these units have children, 54% have a dependent and 39% have at least one person at home in the risk group of COVID-19. 64% of the participants said that they have not received any training regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. 8 in every 10 women health workers (81%) participating in the study stated that they need information.

Due to heavy workload, 7 out of every 10 women healthcare workers (69%) are caught between domestic burden/private life and working life, and 64% need support for their life outside of work. To reduce this division, 7 out of 10 participants (72%) said that they need psychosocial support, more than half of the participants (58%) need support for housework such as laundry, cleaning and cooking, and more than 1 in 3 (37%) need support with childcare. 

Almost all of the women health professionals (94%) feel anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on profession, those who feel most anxious are doctors, nurses and midwives. Women health professionals working in primary health care institutions (97%), university hospitals (95%) and state hospitals (94%) are in the group experiencing anxiety the most. Among the reasons for anxiety, transmitting the virus to the family and immediate environment (91%), being COVID-19 positive/being under continuous risk of infection (79%), the uncertainty of the situation (78%) and the opinion that people do not take adequate precautions (77%) came to the fore while 3 out of 10 participants (30%) also stated that they are concerned about the possibility of violence by patients or their families.

Women health workers stated that they mostly need economic support (63%), psychosocial support (62%), reduction of working hours (58%), better organization of work (49%) and establishment of a system where they can report problems in their workplaces (% 44) in order to reduce anxiety.

Furthermore, according to the research, all of the participants (92%) stated that their important needs could not be met during the pandemic. 3 out of every 4 participants (74%) complain about not having enough income to meet their efforts, half of them (49%) about not having their own periodic health examinations and almost half of them about insufficient personal protective equipment (43%) and not being able to meet their psychosocial support/self-care needs (40%). According to the research results, 26% of the participants stated that sexual and reproductive health services have been interrupted during this process. The most disrupted services are listed as infertility, prenatal and postnatal care and induced abortion.

The research also includes suggestions for the difficulties faced by women health workers. The participants think that the following steps would play an important role in the solution of women health workers’ problems: improvement of wages (75%), reduction of working hours (71%), more effective professional organizations (53%), establishment of a mechanism to convey the problems (52%), facilitated leave during menstruation periods (49%), women-friendly areas to rest in the workplace (48%), building of a participatory decision-making system where women health workers might be more effective (45%), development of a solidarity network among women from different professions in the health sector (43%) and measures effective enough to prevent violence in the workplace (40%).

All in all, the research results demonstrate the importance of fulfilling the specialized needs of  women working in the health sector and dissemination of protective and preventive health policies and interventions developed with a gender equality perspective in Turkey.