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Nonclinical support workers of a reference hospital in Bahia, Brazil, as being essential and invisible in the face of COVID-19

Abstract

In the context of hospital work during the COVID-19 pandemic, it should be acknowledged that the nonclinical support activities carried out by stretcher bearers, cleaning agents and administrative assistants were essential for the work process. This article analyzed the results of an exploratory stage of broader research with these workers in a COVID-19 hospital reference unit in the state of Bahia. Three semi-structured interviews were selected, using assumptions of ethnomethodology and ergonomics, to encourage these workers to talk about their work, The analysis concentrated on the work activities of stretcher-bearers, cleaning agents and administrative assistants from a visibility perspective. The study showed that these workers were rendered invisible by the scant social respect for their activities and level of schooling that prevailed despite the circumstances and excess workload; and revealed the essential nature of these services due to the interdependence between support work and care work and their contributions to patient and team safety. The conclusion drawn is that it is necessary to establish strategies such that these workers are valued socially, financially, and institutionally.

Key words:
Occupational health; COVID-19; Hospital services; Health workforce; Health personnel

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