On this year’s World Health Day, which has the theme of “building a fairer, healthier world for everyone”, the World Health Organization called for immediate action to eliminate health inequities that have become more striking throughout the pandemic.
This is of particular concern in Iran where at least 244,800 people have now died because of the government’s failure to implement proper restrictions or import the vaccine in a timely manner. Worst still, with the country now in its fourth wave, the number of deaths will rise considerably with the deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi saying hospitalizations and deaths in Tehran have already increased 50-70%.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki said: “Today we are facing one of the most horrific COVID-19 waves. We cannot predict what hospitalizations will be and it is not clear what awaits us. There are not enough resources and they (the Government) did not give us the fund for various reasons.”
Most hospitals are reporting a rise in Covid cases, from them doubling in Tehran to them rising by 250% in Mazandaran. To make matters worse, the vaccine program is moving at a glacial pace because Iran has been slow to import it and the Russian vaccine supply is too little to vaccinate even the most at risk.
In all of this, it’s vital to remember the key work being done by Iranian nurses, a significant number of whom have died due to coronavirus because they didn’t have proper PPE and because of the sheer influx of patients. Many have sacrificed everything to the fight, sleeping in the hospital and not seeing their children.
Some 60,000 nurses developed coronavirus and around 100 had died, as of December 2020. But this is likely to be the bare minimum.
All of this, plus the dire conditions for nurses prior to the pandemic, is leading to increased burnout and a major shortage of nurses. The head of the Nurses Organization explained that there needs to be 2.5 times the current number of nurses to meet international standards, but the officials use temporary contracts and poverty pay, discouraging trained applicants. Many were actually even laid off with no justification during the pandemic. Nursing students go abroad because there simply aren’t the jobs in Iran.
Nurses have protested the unfair working conditions, including non-permanent work, low pay, delayed wages, and layoffs at various intervals, but never received an answer; instead being beaten and imprisoned.