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Rights of Health Care Workers in the Americas Under Threat

Health care workers and other staff gather at a distance at Harborview Medical Center in a demonstration asking management to do more to protect staff, patients and the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic, May 14, 2020, in Seattle.

Governments in the Americas are failing to protect vital health care workers, according to a report by Amnesty International released Tuesday.

The report focuses on the rights of health care professionals in both North and South America, and it is based upon 21 in-depth interviews, an Amnesty International press released stated.

“ … saying thank you is not enough. Governments must take action to ensure their basic rights and safety are never put at such horrendous risk again,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Titled “The Cost of Curing: Health workers’ rights in the Americas during COVID-19 and beyond,” the report discusses topics such as compensation, access to personal protective equipment and reprisals for whistleblowers.

“The right to access information and the right to speak up freely [are] both rights recognized under international human rights law and crucial elements of protecting the right to health,” the report states.

Several American countries have repressed the freedom of expression relating to the coronavirus outbreak.

Venezuela, for example, has jailed journalists for speaking out against the nation’s practice of underreporting.

Similarly, El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele vetoed legislation designed to increase the safety of health care workers, and he accused human rights organizations of working “to make sure more people die.”

In the United States, those interviewed expressed fear of losing their jobs if they spoke out, and they also mentioned a lack of adequate access to equipment.

According to the study, more than half of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 reside in the Americas but suffer disproportionate access to medical care.