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Audrey Hinchcliffe | Holistic recovery from COVID-19

Audrey Hinchcliffe | Holistic recovery from COVID-19

Contributed Photo

Published: Tuesday | May 12, 2020 | 12:11 AMAudrey Hinchcliffe/Guest Columnist

THE TAGLINE ‘We are in this together’ aptly portrays economic recovery in the presence of the coronavirus. The challenge for the Economic Recovery Task Force will be finding the balance, as the economy and the virus will have to learn to coexist, at least for a while. There will need to be reliance on science to inform healthcare which will, in turn, inform the economy. This three-legged stool will serve to inform the work of the task force and its subcommittees.

I was tempted to create a four-legged stool by adding politics as the other leg, but with an ounce of caution, I veered away from this as it dawned on me that this is no time to include anything decisive, as focus is needed on the subtopic – finding the balance. We are aware that scientists are still grappling with the behaviour of the virus, its origin, how it is spread, how to control and, eventually, eradicate it. The scramble is on to find a cure, with reports of potions, pills and vaccines being explored. Mythic cures abound while the spread of the disease – COVID-19 – and rising death toll continue to emerge. This is the background against which economic recovery is being pursued.

My unsolicited position is that any talk of economic recovery has to be pegged to human resource; recalling that businesses have said in the past, and it still holds true, that human resource is their greatest asset. This asset goes out the door at the end of each shift, with no guarantee of its return the next day. COVID-19 is now dictating that this asset must be protected if businesses want to reopen, grow and thrive. I am now being bold to state that the business of health is through human resource, which is grounded in occupational health and safety, while health, as a business, is grounded in the economy in the form of products, goods and services.


The talk of business recovery is taking place in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The policies on mitigation and control may be seeing some results, but uncertainty looms as preparation is being pursued for business recovery. In this scenario, I direct attention to the business of health (and wellness), which is the production of healthcare and the determinants of what will work. Here I am limiting my views to dealing with COVID-19. Realising that we have to find a balance between operating business and living with the virus – I now submit that the balance at the workplace has to be supported by a strong occupational health programme guided by enforceable policy initiatives for the following:

• Social distance/Physical distance;

• Compulsory testing with quick results;

• Contact tracing;

• Isolation and quarantine;

• Treatment – symptoms;

• Mental and spiritual support,

Against this background, occupational health services, where it now exists, must be shored up for this responsibility under the direction and collaboration with the public health system. Where there is no programme, companies must move expeditiously to put one in place. This must be backed up by staffing and training. Monitoring the workplace for compliance with COVID-19 prevention measures will come from both external and internal processes.

New staff positions may emerge, hence positively enhancing job creation. Immediately, I foresee a health monitoring aide with duties that include taking temperature; enforcing the wearing of PPEs; social and physical distancing; cleaning and sanitising; assisting with employee assistance, among other activities, for infection control, such as hand hygiene and mask discipline.

There should be internal policy and procedure for if and when a worker gets sick, and the external linkage for care. An occupational health programme will throw up questions, such as the role of health insurance, and medical care. These questions should go into the mix of issues for discussion by the business recovery task force, as these cut across all business sectors.

In this regard, consultations on human resource, health and safety need to be the subject of a task force subcommittee. I can just hear the outcry about the cost and available resources, but we can’t have it any other way – if the human resource is the greatest asset, healthcare is the companion asset. There is no choice in the quest for business recovery. Business must open safely; on the other hand, health as a business will be in demand, ranging from medical care, pharmaceutical (licit and illicit substances), testing devices (kits), medical devices, PPEs, transportation, accommodation, nutrition, counselling, training, technology, and many other items for care, cure and comfort during illness. COVID-19 has dictated its own products and services.

So, as part of business-recovery initiatives, health as a business has a place in the deliberations, as existing businesses will attract support for reopening, whether for organisational restructuring, rightsizing, and new goods and services.

During business recovery, the virus will remain as infectious and deadly as it is now. If control measures are not monitored, and policy changes not made, it will be easy to have to return to lockdowns and curfews. The interest of economic recovery will drive the behaviour of business, regardless of sector; hence, finding the balance is an imperative for the business recovery task force.

Audrey Hinchcliffe is the CEO and founder of Manpower and Maintenance Services Ltd Group. Send feedback to ceo@manpowerja.com or columns@gleanerjm.com.

Source: The Gleaner Company Media Limited

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