The Need For A Great Reset In Healthcare Capacity

Getting caught off guard is never a good feeling. Even nice surprises can take a moment to process.  When something bad happens, we may be stuck in reaction mode awhile before we start to contemplate if we could have seen it coming. 

At the start this pandemic my anxiety like many was high.  Few people like uncertainty and I am no different. I turned to writing as my way to express my thoughts and vent frustrations from the forces outside my control.  When comparing the dangers of the disease to the negative impacts on fellow citizens and most significantly my kids - something just didn't seem right. 

The whole response seemed disproportionate to what I was seeing  in my day to day life. The first wave of the virus literally, never hit home, but the response to it certainly did.

Businesses and schools were shuttered, and our family life changed dramatically. Like many, I felt for our health care professionals like my wife, who continued working as if nothing had changed. Outside of a few hotspots and long-term care homes most hospitals felt little impact as well. They did go into crisis mode to prepare for the crush of virus patients that never materialized till later that year.   

So it was under this reality that I tried to make sense of things.  With media that was more hell bent on scaring than informing, many went to social media to read and share. I tossed and turned many a night, wondering if it was some sort of conspiracy - the big reset. Why was it only impacting some countries? Why were some people not scared and why were others terrified? Why did so few people know of anyone impacted by covid? Was this a complete overreaction, by government and public health? 

As the months went by the answers became more apparent. In hindsight, our response was disproportionate and too broad in some areas and not as deliberate or committed in others. We continue to muddle through this learning as we go. What hasn't changed from the start, however, is the simple fact that our healthcare system was and still is woefully unprepared.  

It is no wonder people have trouble buying into important public health measures or protest the devastating consequences being inflicted. The government hasn't come clean and let people behind the curtain. There has been plenty of scolding, but not a frank discussion about what really is happening. No, it’s not a conspiracy, but an epic failure of government leadership and the voters who put them in power to prepare.

Few in healthcare are shocked by what has happened. They have sounded the alarms for years. The baby boomers were not born yesterday. Chronic underfunding in health care personnel made even bad flu seasons dangerous. All the beds, equipment, and even vaccines don't matter if you don't have sufficient personnel to do the work. It is one our few labour-intensive fields still out there, and it should be embraced. 

Going forward we need to follow a military model and provide free education to anyone that chooses study in a variety of medical fields - specifically nursing.  Since there are only so many jobs to go around during normal times, we would need them on call like the army reserves.  To qualify for free tuition and other financial support they would need to submit to on – going training to keep their skills up to date.   

We are also going to need more human resources and reforms to long term care. Any benefits to the for-profit model in LTC have been laid bare during this pandemic.  Yes, all these changes will cost money, but our current methods have proven to be the very definition of false economy.  Having an economic ship that can sail fast in calm seas is great, but we are dead in the water if our boat flips over as soon as it gets rough. 

Another preventive solution looks at how we can increase the uptake of vaccines and flu shots. We should embrace systems already in place like the tax code to provide monetary incentives for preventive health care. We already use sin taxes as a stick and to provide revenue to pay for the negative health outcomes of smoking and drinking. Expand this to give tax credits for those who get shots to act as a financial carrot. The lost revenue will be more than made up by the savings from positive health outcomes.

Soon this will behind us, but we can't let governments flip the script to climate change, until they have made the needed reforms to avoid going off track again. Yes, we should build back better, and changes to our health care to address surge capacity must be job one. 

Prior to the pandemic, I was all for banning single use plastics and putting the health of our planet first. Well, that noble ideal sure went away fast when covid hit.  I know turtles, don't like straws, my guess is they don't like masks either. Everything takes a back seat when mankind is in immediate danger. We have spent billions in defensive reaction. Imagine what we could have done with that money if we had a healthcare system able to manage through this crisis. We would have been able to keep more of our economy open and avoided much of this self-inflicted, economic carnage. 

While I support the efforts to combat climate change, the reaction to this pandemic showed us where our priorities lie. We can't prepare for a looming crisis down the road when we are still vulnerable to the pervasive threat of the next pandemic.  

While we lay blame for government reaction - it's time to focus on the future.  It's easy to reflect upon what should have been done, but hindsight is so 2020. 

By Gregory Cawsey

Previous Covid Essays 

Preparing For A New Normal - March 2020

So What's The Plan - April 2020

Today's On-line Lesson - Have to Pay to Play Kids - May 2020

Enforcing Speeding By Shutting Down Roads - May 2020

Canada's State of Paralysis - June 2020

When Will This End? Oct. 2020