Its September and some fall is creeping into our night temperatures in Calgary. The evenings are chilly but the day hours show some resiliency. We cant complain about the summer this year as it was really warm for almost 6 weeks. Sorry that I didn’t pen a newsletter in August, but we were in the thick of summer and planning future moves.
I need to admit that I have struggled to put life into perspective these past months. I’m past worrying about what people think of me for pursuing public health measures such as masks, restricted travel, social distance and vaccination. Most of the time I choose to ignore those who don’t adhere to public measures, thinking that my mental health is more important than their selfishness. The hospital protests in many Canadian cities last week moved me to anger and forces me to respond. I’ll do so within this newsletter as I think there are several principles worth talking about. These protests were ostensibly to confront provincial governments that have chosen to enforce vaccination passports and other COVID restrictions. The protests took place at hospitals and legislature buildings, and even at one election campaign event in Ontario. This is neanderthal type behaviour, selfishness at its height, and has nothing to do with respect and tolerance. It seems at the height of hypocrisy to ask for respect/ tolerance and then show none to healthcare workers at the hospitals where protests occurred.
May I start by saying to friends and family who read this; my tirade is not against you individually but is against the behaviour that I am seeing exhibited by some anti-vaxers. Those of you who reject the scientific assumptions about COVID may reserve the right to disagree with public health officials, but then should be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions. Democracy means providing laws and actions that allow the greater majority to live in safety. There is no modern democracy that panders to everyone’s needs or wants. For example, if you disagree with vaccination and reject the need for a passport, it should not be a surprise to you that you are barred entry to restaurants and other public places, for allowing you entry would put others at risk. The fact is that vaccinations, masking and social distancing have been endorsed by the majority of society and have been effective at stemming the COVID tide. Your choice to reject such measures is quite illogical and should not be tolerated by health officials. Since you have gained the benefits that we as the majority have provided you by ascribing to the measures, we would expect you to accept the pressure that officials will exert on you to follow safe rules, without becoming violent or abusive.
Now to non friends:- the fact that you are different isn’t at the heart of my anger; its that you are prepared to fight for the civil right to be different. Throughout the last 50 years of modern democracy there have been a multitude of issues that all us have had to struggle with. These resulted in lots of debate and in changes to laws, but few tried to topple governments or cripple society. The outcome of hospital protests such as those we saw last week could be that healthcare as we know it will be crippled. The influence of Q Anon on unrest in the US is directly linked to anti vaxers, and aims to cripple that society. We already see that healthcare workers are becoming unsympathetic to unvaccinated COVID patients who land up in hospital. That these protests are driving nurses and others into an ethical dilemma which makes them want to refrain from working in ICU or emergency rooms is a warning sign to me that what you are doing is evil. At the heart of my plea to you is this: please do not disengage from respectful conversation. It is in discourse that we enter into finding reasonable solutions. Aggressive, disrespectful, hurtful actions such as the ones we saw this week simply hurt the wrong people!
A few other observations are in order. As a recently retired physician it saddens me to see how little trust there is in the public institution of Medicine. Social Media, increased technology and the size of medical organizations has depersonalized and hijacked Medicine. This will affect the art of caring and is a catch 22 situation. People don’t trust, which then produces less caring, which produces less trust!!
So it isn’t surprising to me that anti-vaxers get away with the vitriole that they spew. The point I am making here is that low levels of trust in society makes them suspicious of healthcare organizations, which allows them to tolerate the hate they see in anti vaxers, etc. My word to all of us is that this mistrust is based on things outside our control (corruption in governments/ partisanship/ poor leadership in organizations/ lack of empathy for the weak and poor). Our anger at “the establishment” is well founded in many ways; but if we aren’t careful we will throw the baby out with the bathwater. Having been a leader in healthcare, and a physician myself I will go on record as saying that the great majority of healthcare workers really do care for you! We need to protect them if we want systems that focus on benefits to patients.
Finally, it is now almost 20 months since this all began. Many of our lives have changed; forced on us by the pandemic and it has become accepted that the virus and its mutants are with us for much longer. I want you to look deep inside and tell yourself that to thrive despite this challenge requires resilience. I want you to ensure that you live each day one at a time, and that you find time to do a little physical exercise. Hug your kids even more than before; tell your partner that you love them more frequently. As we move through into another academic year, I am concerned that our mental health is threatened in more ways than ever before. Please know that there are many who care about you and try hard to keep your head above the water.