Original Research

Psychological distress among South African healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Shandir Ramlagan, Ronel Sewpaul, Yolande Shean, Tenielle Schmidt, Alicia North, Sasiragha P. Reddy
Curationis | Vol 47, No 1 | a2477 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v47i1.2477 | © 2024 Shandir Ramlagan, Ronel Sewpaul, Yolande Shean, Tenielle Schmidt, Alicia North, Sasiragha P. Reddy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 February 2023 | Published: 19 February 2024

About the author(s)

Shandir Ramlagan, Department of Human and Social Capabilities, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa
Ronel Sewpaul, Department of Human and Social Capabilities, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa
Yolande Shean, Department of Human and Social Capabilities, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa
Tenielle Schmidt, Department of Human and Social Capabilities, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa
Alicia North, Registry of Senior Australians, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Adelaide, Australia
Sasiragha P. Reddy, School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has placed immense pressure on healthcare workers (HCWs).

Objectives: This study sought to find the prevalence and factors associated with psychological distress among HCWs in South Africa during the beginning phases of COVID-19 and make relevant recommendations.

Method: The survey was administered online through a data-free platform. Data were benchmarked to the national population of over 500 000 healthcare professionals in South Africa. Multiple logistic regressions were used to determine association between psychological distress and potential explanatory variables.

Results: A total of 7607 healthcare professionals participated in the study (1760 nurses, 2843 medical practitioners and 3004 other healthcare professionals). Half of the nurses, 41% of medical practitioners and 47% of other healthcare professionals were classified as psychologically distressed. Those who were of older age, provided with well-being support services and having a positive outlook on the healthcare system were significantly less likely to be distressed. Being female medical practitioners and female other healthcare professions, requesting routine counselling, being concerned about not having enough leave and that their life insurance policy did not cover COVID-19 were more likely to be distressed.

Conclusion: Psychological well-being of HCWs in South Africa is at risk. We recommend that psychological distress of HCWs be routinely assessed and that routine counselling, well-being support services, appropriate hazardous leave and insurance be provided to all HCWs.

Contribution: This study adds to the literature on the psychological distress faced by HCWs in South Africa during COVID-19.


Keywords

psychological distress; healthcare workers; COVID-19; South Africa, mental health.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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