Press Release

A Pandemic Treaty is Empty without its Health and Care Workforce

Published On: Mar 29, 2024

( As WHO Member States approach the last days of the 9th Meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body of the Pandemic Treaty (INB9) this week, Public Services International (PSI) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) raise the alarm, based on the concerns of health and care professionals and workers worldwide at the lack of commitment by Member States to recognize, value and protect the health and care workforce in the Pandemic Agreement.

Our organizations represent millions of health and care workers whose sacrifices on the frontline led the global community out of the pandemic crisis. Poorly compensated, unprotected, demoralized, depressed and completely exhausted, our members; the health and care workers in all your countries are saying "Never Again!” shall we face the next pandemic in those conditions.

This same spirit inspired the 2nd Special Session of the World Health Assembly’s resolution for the formulation of a pandemic accord, and formation of the INB to guide this process. That spirit must inform the negotiations and final outcome of the pandemic agreement.

Thus, we demand that the agreement explicitly includes:

  • Decent work and Social Dialogue – including fair compensation, social protection, mental health and well-being, priority access to PPEs and health technologies during pandemics, gender equality and non-discrimination, as addressing harassment, violence and threats against health and care workers, particularly gender-based violence);
  • Precautionary Principle - in pandemic settings to safeguard the lives of health and care workers on the frontline, when the cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically and there may be threats of harm to human health or the environment;
  • Protection of health and care workers’ families – including commitments in the text to put in place policies in the event of injury, sequelae or death during pandemic response;
  • Fair and ethical recruitment – recognising that the continued global shortfall of healthcare workers especially in low  and middle income countries is inequitable and a cause of health harms and inequity, commit to strengthen the WHO Global Code of Practice on International Recruitment of Health Personnel, ensure that bilateral agreements entail proportional benefits and strengthen ILO core labour standards;
  • Safe staffing – recognising that health worker safety and patient safety are two sides of the same coin commit to adopt the WHO Charter for health worker safety including having systems in place to define and maintain safe staffing levels;  
  • Resilient and well-funded public health and care systems – as the backbone of crisis preparedness and universal health care;
  • Suspension of Intellectual Property Rights on pandemic products – establishing a legally binding and automatic mechanism to waive intellectual property rights for essential technologies after a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) is declared.
  • Equity within and between countries – Member States must accept legally binding obligations on benefit-sharing that may come from access to pathogens; the PABS system (WHO Pathogen Access and Benefit-Sharing) must be accountable, transparent and equitable.

There can be no health without a healthcare workforce and lack of investment in healthcare workers lays at the centre of why the world was not adequately prepared for the pandemic. That must never happen again and requires commitment by all member states to prioritise, commit and act on increased investment in the healthcare workforce.

Balanced solutions must be balanced solutions. It cannot be business as usual where the same countries that have always demonstrated power continue to demonstrate power in the Pandemic Agreement.

Uphold human rights, justice and equity in the Pandemic Agreement!

Protect,  value and invest in the health and care workforce

Put people over profit! Health before wealth! 

International Council of Nurses (ICN)

Public Services International (PSI)


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