In Nolan yesterday to talk about the latest response from the Stormont Executive to the increase in Covid infections. Through the various conversations, I was struck by how public understanding falls short of the nature of the crisis.
One lady said that she was so sick of looking at people in masks that she preferred to sit at home rather than go out. It turned out that she had lost her husband during the crisis and was still clearly suffering from loss and forced isolation.
The private stressors that people experience due to isolation deemed necessary to reduce disease bring real complications. The funeral cut to the floor was the fact that many have renounced normal courtesies in life or death.
The fact that much of the population has been vaccinated creates its own logical challenges, but only if the broader problems of the system are not analyzed. Maire Louise Connolly’s excellent book is worth reading report from Ulster Hospital:
Nurses move around, arranging blankets and pulling curtains to protect the dignity of the patient. At every step, there is a sick person waiting to be treated or admitted to a ward. At the peak, 134 people were waiting, in an apartment that originally housed 65 cubicles with beds.
Now, those aren’t covid patients, as Marie Louise explains later in the article. We’re having a third wave of excessive deaths, but it’s not just about Covid. Chris Giles and Sarah Neville at the FT explain (H / T Tony):
The new phase of excess deaths raises the possibility that since the summer more people have been losing their lives as a result of tensions in the NHS or lack of early diagnosis of serious diseases, although the interpretation of the figures is questioned.
Data from the Office for National Statistics, Scottish National Registries and the Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency have shown three distinct phases of the pandemic.
As they note, non-Covid deaths “since early July have been higher than the weekly average for the five years leading up to the pandemic.” What is happening right now is a bottleneck of deferred cases.
Some of them ended with serious lives, some covid, or other forms of respiratory diseases that have been released since we took off the mask thinking that we were completely safe.
Hearing from friends who work in healthcare areas less stressed than in Northern Ireland, most (though not all) of the most serious cases they face in ICU are not vaccinated.
“Freedom Day” didn’t help. Nor do politicians turn a blind eye to massive rule violations. The current rules are quite moderate, allowing for discretion and individual freedom.
But if we simply ignore them (and I have been guilty of this too), our freedoms will be reduced even more. If you really want to avoid another economic crisis, you can at least put on a bloody mask!
However, the chronic lack of resources predates COVID. Medical personnel have performed miracles not only in dealing with a deadly illness, but in communicating with contractors to get oxygen supplies where they were needed, often not where planned.
In my own family I had the experience of an elderly aunt who fell and broke her hip. She spent three to four days being sent between Downe Hospital in Downpatrick and Ulster for an operation that took that long to fix.
As it happened, a younger relative, a nurse who cares for these patients at a health trust in southern England, was horrified to witness a delay that would not have been tolerated under a protocol that insisted on surgery within 24 hours. .
I must say that the staff is not to blame. But if your resources are so scarce, there is nothing someone on the sharp end can do. Years of procrastination and reports of Bengoa and Donaldson gathering dust on the shelves.
On the most important issue, as our Gerry Lynch has pointed out on Twitter, the main Covid treatment we have (vaccines) is working:
In the United Kingdom –
This time last year: 20 thousand cases / day, 17 thousand patients in the hospital, 1.5 thousand in the ICU, a country closed.
Currently: 40k cases / day, 8k in hospital and 900 in ICU (both fall), England wide open, Sco / Wal / NI very close. And the third jabs are still rolling out.
Yes, vaccines work.
– Gerry Lynch (@gerrylynch) November 23, 2021
We are dealing with a legacy of neglect and political shyness when faced with explaining to voters why the system is not performing to the capacity we need. The use of masks will help in the short term, the investment will help in the medium term.
But we also need our politicians to present to them the dilemma posed by the experts whose reports they like to wave like promissory notes, to stand up and explain the big picture and why tough decisions need to be made.
Putting midwives back in charge of hospitals will also help. It is the results that we have to manage, as well as the budgets.
Mick is the founding editor of Slugger. He has written articles on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the media in general and is a regular guest and speaks at events in Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty