(Bloomberg) -- Europe is in the midst of a health-worker crisis that must be addressed soon as the region grapples with an aging population and a surge in chronic illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. 

“The health workforce crisis in Europe is no longer a looming threat — it is here and now,” said Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe. “If the current climate of industrial action, burnout and brain drain are anything to go by, then our health systems are in deep trouble.” 

Kluge spoke at an event in Romania where countries across Europe adopted a plan — known as the Bucharest Declaration — to help protect and support health workers, as strikes over working conditions and insufficient resources continue to ripple through the region.

More than 100,000 doctors and nurses in France walked out in November, while thousands of health-care workers in Germany went on strike last summer. In the UK, health-care workers have staged a series of industrial action since mid-December. 

The walkouts not only reflects “growing frustration and concern” among health workers across the region but are an impediment to attracting fresh talent too, said Kluge. 

“As we enter the fourth year of the pandemic, our health workers are tired, overburdened and often under-paid,” he said. “If we hope to face the multiple health challenges that lie before us, from an aging population to climate change to antimicrobial resistance to another pandemic, we need a large, well-trained and motivated health workforce.” 

A regional report published by WHO in September warned of a “ticking timebomb” threatening health systems in Europe and Central Asia and said there could be imminent collapse in key areas unless quick, concrete political actions were taken. 

The Bucharest Declaration urges governments to carry out a number of measures such as improving the recruitment and retention of staff, increasing public investment and implementing better planning.



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