In Brazil, one in three health professionals (33.7%) believes that SUS should use treatments against Covid-19 even if there is no evidence of efficacy in patients.
The data are from the fourth phase of a survey conducted by Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) in partnership with Fiocruz and Rede Covid-19 Humanidades. Virtual interviews were carried out with 1,829 public health professionals in Brazil, including doctors, nursing professionals, community agents, physiotherapists, among others, between March 1 and 20, 2021.
In the third stage, the share of health professionals who advocated the use of drugs without proof of effectiveness was similar (32%).
Community workers are the ones who most defend its use in SUS (40.2%), but are followed by nursing professionals, with 34.3%, while 22.2% of doctors defend this position.
The research is not representative of the whole society because it does not make a probabilistic sample of the population, but it brings some interesting aspects about the perceptions of the pandemic in this category.,
For the first time the survey questioned the opinion of professionals about vaccination is unprecedented, since in the previous stages the immunizers against Covid-19 were not yet available.
Two out of three professionals said they believed that vaccination against Covid-19 should be mandatory.
When the results are disaggregated by profession, the view that the vaccine is an individual choice and should not be mandatory is greater among community health workers (42.8%), compared to nurses (27.3%) and doctors (18.2%).
For Gabriela Lotta, researcher in public administration and coordinator of the Center for Bureaucracy Studies at FGV, who leads the research, it is surprising that 33% of professionals have rejected the requirement that vaccines be mandatory by a third of health professionals. “It is even more shocking when we think of the 43% of community health workers, because if there is something that is constantly said in public health, vaccines are important tools for disease control, and these are the professionals who go to the homes families to advise on vaccines. ”
Lotta also explains that the narrative created in the country around the defense of early treatment, either by the President of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro (without a party) or by the Ministry of Health, can partially support the portion of health professionals who saw a benefit in the “Covid kit”.
In addition, many of these professionals received guidance in the use of these medications in their workplaces.
In contrast, 87% of participants said they had been vaccinated at least one dose of the vaccine, which is in line with the fact that health professionals, especially those working on the front line to combat Covid-19, were included in the first phases. vaccination in the country.
Even with the first doses of the immunizer, almost 9 out of 10 health professionals report being afraid of Covid-19. According to the study, there is no variation in this perception according to the region, which indicates a generalized feeling of fear and insecurity across this category across the country.
In this context, it makes sense that many professionals are afraid not only of becoming infected, but also of passing it on to their family members, since 96.6% of the interviewees said they knew a colleague with a suspicion or diagnosis of Covid-19, and about one third (31.2%) say they have already been infected.
According to data from the epidemiological bulletin of the Ministry of Health on March 4, 2021, more than 144,000 suspected cases of Covid-19 were reported among health professionals across the country, of which 39,000 were confirmed. By far, the profession most susceptible to Covid-19 is nursing, with the highest record of confirmed cases – about 30%, or almost 12,000 cases.
In addition to being the most vulnerable to contracting the disease, nursing professionals are also the ones who report suffering more moral harassment during the pandemic (24.4%), often conditioned to work or perform tasks under pressure.
The survey also identified a problem previously reported: that 8 out of 10 respondents had their mental health negatively affected by the pandemic, with only 19% receiving some type of psychological support.
“We are exposing professionals to physical and mental health problems without giving any support, demanding work without stopping, for twelve months, and with no prospect of improvement”, he says.
At the worst moment of the pandemic, this worsened the feeling of fear (58.8%), tiredness (57.7%), loneliness (26.8%) and hopelessness (26.6%). With all this feeling of exhaustion and anxiety, there is still a significant portion (more than 70% of the professionals) who say they have not received any training on how to act in the service to Covid-19.
The perception is, therefore, of a lack of government support in the three spheres, although there has been a significant worsening in the federal sphere (from 34.2% in the third round to 75.2% in the new stage). “It was also the first time that we received criticism of Bolsonaro’s stance towards Covid-19”, he says.
Finally, if there is inequality in the pandemic and it has already been documented in several ways, such as a higher number of deaths among blacks, it also works with health professionals, who are mostly women and black women, in the categories of community agents and health professionals. nursing (80%), and white men and women among doctors (78.8%).
“Here, race, gender and profession are added, which is naturally also linked to race and gender, with black women more present in professions with lower salaries, less socially valued, and the combination of these factors makes these black women subject to worse conditions in the pandemic compared to white women, who in turn are subjected to worse conditions than white men, ”says Lotta.