More than half of front-line care workers say the stress of the COVID-19 crisis continues to hurt their health over a year after it began, but only 13% received support services, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post survey.
Front-line workers under 30 were the hardest hit, with 56% reporting the pandemic stress had a negative impact on their physical health and 75% on their mental health.
A majority (62%) of front-line workers reported similar struggles with mental health, over a year since the pandemic began. But instead of receiving support services, more found themselves coping through increased drug use (16%), or experienced trouble sleeping (47%) or stomach and head aches (31%).
Employers are also “falling short” in vaccinating workers, according to 12% of respondents, and in paid sick leave, according to 33%. This hits home for many workers, as exposing a family member or loved one to the virus continues to be a major source of stress for 21% of respondents.
Most front-line employees (56%) feel their employer is not providing adequate hazard pay to those in high-risk environments. At some point, one third of those working in hospitals said they had run out of personal protective equipment and more than half also said their intensive-care units reached maximum capacity.
Employees looking for more support said there were multiple roadblocks. Close to a third of front-line workers reported not having the time to access mental health services, while 16% were not able to afford the help offered and 17% reported being too embarrassed to get help.
While President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill included $450 million in funding to additional mental health addiction services and workforce education, many hospitals were disappointed more money was not allocated to alleviate financial strains for front-line providers. The Provider Relief Fund received $11 billion from Congress for rural providers, but an additional $35 billion in added relief to ease hospital financial burdens was denied.