Objectives The existing literature regarding the mental health consequences of COVID-19 among healthcare workers revolves predominantly around specialised hospital settings, while neglecting primary healthcare workers (PHCW) who are the first point of contact for patients. In view of negligible evidence, this study explored the mental health impact of COVID-19 and health system response, and sought suggestions and recommendations from the PHCWs to address their mental health needs during the pandemic crisis. Design We employed a qualitative exploratory design. Setting A total of 42 primary healthcare facilities across 15 districts in Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan. Participants We telephonically conducted 47 in-depth interviews with health service providers and hospital managers. A combination of inductive and deductive approach was used for data analyses using NVivo V.11.0. Results There was immense fear, stress and anxiety among PHCWs being infected and infecting their families at the beginning of this outbreak and its peak which tapered off over time. It was triggered by lack of information about the virus and its management, false rumours, media hype, lack of personal protective measures (personal protective equipment, PPE) and non-cooperation from patients and community people. Trainings on awareness raising and the PPEs provided by the healthcare system, with emotional support from coworkers and supervisors, were instrumental in addressing their mental health needs. Additionally, they recommended appreciation and recognition, and provision of psychosocial support from mental health professionals. Conclusion Primary healthcare system should be prepared to provide timely informational (eg, continuous updates in training and guidelines), instrumental (eg, provision of PPE, appreciation and recognition), organisational (eg, safe and conducive working environment) and emotional and psychosocial support (eg, frequent or needs-based session from mental health professionals) to PHCWs in order to mitigate the mental health impact of pandemic crisis.
- HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION & MANAGEMENT
- MENTAL HEALTH