One in three people in BC have been avoiding health care workers in the pandemic, according to a new research by UBC.
One in four people surveyed went so far as to agree that the freedoms of healthcare workers should be restricted.
The study is believed to be the first on stigmatization of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being around healthcare workers is not dangerous,” said Steven Taylor, a professor of psychiatry in UBC’s faculty of medicine and lead author of the study published last week by the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.
“People need to look at the facts and understand that we don’t need to add to the stress that healthcare workers are already experiencing. If we create burdens on our healthcare workers, it’s going to undermine their ability to perform their jobs properly.”
The research team surveyed a random sample of 3,551 people in Canada and the U.S. between May 6 and 19 to see if they would discriminate against healthcare workers based on fears they could carry the virus that causes COVID-19.
One in three respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I do not want to be around someone who works in a healthcare setting.”
In fact, actual risk of transmission by health workers is low.
Previous research has shown that COVID-19 is only slightly more prevalent among healthcare workers than it is among the general population: 0.14 per cent compared to 0.10 per cent.
Experts believe much of this difference can be attributed to more testing among healthcare workers.
While the COVID-19 pandemic does carry risks for healthcare workers, the risk of contracting the virus is not high among them. Workplace stress is a much bigger problem, and stigmatization only compounds that mental health risk.
The researchers call for clear, sensible public education campaigns to help people understand that healthcare workers pose little risk to the public.