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Respectful Care and Respectful Workplaces

There is increasing credence given to “respectful care” in India right now, especially in the field of maternal health. Treating patients with respect, honoring privacy and confidentiality, are key components of effective care, but they’ve long being considered an exotic and optional “add-on”.

The link that I see missing is respectful treatment of health workers. I don’t think its sustainable for health workers to deliver respectful and person-centred care if they themselves aren’t’ being treated well in their job-posting. I am sure everyone who has visited health facilities or the offices of health administrators has seen staff treated poorly. When we see a PHC or office where there is a nice and happy team, it’s always a great surprise – I always get my camera out to capture the moment, and ask a million questions about how this happy arrangement was achieved. It seems that many factors conspire to prevent good management of health workers – isolation, lack of skills, lack of confidence, absenteeism, delayed salary payments, lack of proper equipment, drugs and resources.

It’s the nature of big bureaucracy that people are all treated as numbers and boxes to be ticked – this applies to both patients and health workers. But “care” is central to health care – something so obvious it seems weird to have to point it out. If we want to ensure a respectful and caring health system for patients, we also need to ensure a respectful and caring system for our health workers.

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