SCIO briefing on the work of civil affairs departments on COVID-19 control and livelihood security

The State Council Information Office held a press conference Monday morning in Beijing to introduce the work of civil affairs departments to prevent and control the COVID-19 epidemic and to secure people's basic livelihood. March 10, 2020

China Society News:

We learned that after the outbreak, nursing homes in Wuhan generally faced a shortage of nursing staff. Most of the nursing staff members currently on the job have been working continuously for more than 40 days. The overwork and high pressure has left them physically and mentally exhausted. We saw in the notice regarding the improvement of civil service agencies' epidemic prevention and control work, that there was a requirement to increase staffing. How does the Ministry of Civil Affairs implement these requirements to solve this problem? Thank you.

Zhan Chengfu:

I will refer this question to Mr. Yu Jianliang, director of the Department of Elderly Care.

Yu Jianliang:

You may be familiar or unfamiliar with the work of elderly care workers. There are more than 2 million elderly people living in around 40,000 nursing homes across country. However, there are only 370,000 workers, among which only 200,000 are caregivers. Consequentially, their workload is large and the amount of services they must provide is also very large. A nurse has to work around the clock. On average, and a nurse needs to serve around 10 elderly people, many of whom are disabled and suffer from dementia. Therefore, from the perspective of daily life care, a nurse has to take care of meal preparation and personal care, which is a tiring and stressful job. At the same time, we also find that their salaries are not high enough. In fact, before the outbreak, there was already a shortage of nursing care staff across the country.

After the outbreak, some nurses who were on vacation for Spring Festival couldn't return to their posts, which resulted in even fewer nurses. Another reason is that after some nursing homes were quarantined, nurses were required to live in their nursing homes. These nurses have basically been on the job from then on, which has caused an even greater workload than before the epidemic. The situation in Wuhan is even worse. There are currently more than 20,000 elderly people in Wuhan's elderly care institutions, but there are just over 3,000 nursing staff. Coupled with the chance of the nursing staff becoming infected or quarantined, the existing manpower is even more inadequate. There is a serious scarcity of care providers in Wuhan.

After the elderly care institutions were put into lockdown, nurses throughout the country, especially those in Wuhan, have selflessly worked day and night and been highly dedicated. We are very touched by their current status and work ethic, and we salute them for their hard work during this time. In response to the human resource shortages, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has taken the following measures to alleviate the shortage of nurses at nursing homes across the country, especially for Wuhan. 

First, for Wuhan, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has organized and coordinated cross-regional nurse aid. The Ministry of Civil Affairs coordinated and organized 118 staff from three other provinces to come to Wuhan. As for inter-provincial support, Hubei province also organized for 50 nurses from another 4 cities and prefectures to come and support Wuhan. We now have a total of 168 extra nursing staff who have come to our aid. Despite the severity of the epidemic in Wuhan, they quickly came here to work regardless of their own safety and security. We were very moved by their spirit of providing aid without considering the conditions and remuneration.

Second, to solve the most fundamental problems of elderly care, we still have to rely on the strength of the nursing home itself. Nurses who are at home should be encouraged to return to work in a timely manner after they have completed self-quarantine. Nursing homes should start recruiting, training and employing new nurses through various means and channels. Since the epidemic situation in Wuhan is still serious, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has formulated policies and give category-specific and class-specific guidance on how to resume work and accomplish epidemic prevention and control. For counties with a relatively mild epidemic situation, especially those with no confirmed cases, we require that under the unified leadership of the local government and the epidemic prevention and control mechanism, and on the premise of ensuring that prevention and control measures are in place, the original nurses and newly recruited personnel should go to work after being tested and meeting the standards. For medium-risk and high-risk areas, a 14-day quarantine should be implemented in accordance with the relevant epidemic prevention and control standards. If the nurses are confirmed to have no infection or symptoms after their quarantine, they can go to work. This will relieve the shortage of nurses. Thank you.

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