APHNH calls for greater support for female healthcare workers | Sunday Observer

APHNH calls for greater support for female healthcare workers

Women play a vital role in the healthcare sector
Women play a vital role in the healthcare sector

In commemoration of Women’s Equality Day, the Association of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes (APHNH) called for greater recognition and support towards female healthcare professionals and reiterated its commitment to enhance the education and advancement of women in the healthcare sector. 

Particularly in the context of increased risks for healthcare professionals owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, APHNH President Dr. Lakith Peiris said that most gender-specific issues had been further exacerbated.

“Like in many other critical sectors of the Sri Lankan economy, women play a vital role in the healthcare sector. It is therefore essential that all Sri Lankans make an effort to understand the challenges they face, appreciate their contributions and actively pursue policies that address these issues,” he said. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) data from 2019, women make up 67% of the health workforce – particularly in nursing and midwifery sectors - across 104 countries surveyed.

According to APHNH estimates, women make up close to 70% of the private health sector locally, while analysis carried out by the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs in 2016 indicate that females hold 62% of health and social work jobs in Sri Lanka.

Given global and domestic trends towards an ageing population and parallel increases in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and chronic illnesses, Dr. Peiris said that already prevailing shortages in nursing professionals would drastically spike with increasing demand for such services. 

The ratio of nurses to the population in Sri Lanka stood at approximately two nurses per 1,000 Sri Lankans in 2015, up from about one nurse per 1,000 in 2005 (Ministry of Health, 2018). According to the WHO, an estimated shortage in nursing professionals between 5000 and 6000 has been projected for the year 2030. 

A main contributory factor to this shortage is the high female employee attrition rate. According to employee data from APHNH, female healthcare workers are typically compelled to leave their jobs after marriage or childbirth due to domestic responsibilities, leading to an estimated turnover rate close to 30%. 

APHNH recommends that industry members look into constructing crèches or similar childcare facilities at their institutions, with the hope this will not only improve female employee retention rates, but also facilitate full and equal participation of women in the industry. Similarly, the association plans to introduce improved educational services for paramedical service providers, which is expected to generate an increase in qualified nurses and in other critical roles dominated by females. 

APHNH has developed a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 6 for nursing, which has been approved by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) and the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA). This is an internationally recognised qualification.

Similar APHNH training initiatives for nurses include a three year nursing program, a one year nursing assistant program, and a four-month gap filling programe. Fur, APHNH also plans to introduce Pharmacy Assistant and Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT) training programs into their expanding educational curriculum. APHNH has also initiated in-service training for different fields.

“As an association and on behalf of all Sri Lankans, we once again express our heartfelt gratitude for their life-saving work and pledge to continue driving progressive policies that support female healthcare professionals. One of our key areas of focus will be the provision of comprehensive childcare facilities which has been among the most immediate concerns for women in the industry.

Additionally, we will continue to collaborate with the Government and all other stakeholders on any further initiatives that will ensure equal opportunity and fair treatment of female healthcare professionals,” Dr. Peiris said. 

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