The world has been torn apart in just a few days; the growth of cases in various countries is alarming while some countries report no incidence of the virus whatever. In North America, New York seems the hardest hit and we hear daily briefings from the White House, various governors, our Prime Minister and increasingly our premiers. The briefings each day seem to ramp up the intensity and seriousness of the Covid-19 issue, and in New Brunswick the faces of Premier Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell have become welcome sights to a concerned public.
Floating hospitals and military field hospitals are being activated in the United States and hospitals are being directed to vastly increase their capacity.
In the short time since early February the world has been brought to a virtual standstill due to one miserable little bug, Covid-19. Universities shut down, graduations cancelled, meetings postponed, vacations cancelled, much normal social and economic activity grinding to a halt. Millions of people worldwide will receive no paycheque until the dust settles!
The stock market went crazy requiring the Fed and Bank of Canada to restore confidence, a rare intervention significant of the seriousness of this bug and its potential impact on human health and the economy.
Dreams are being dashed for millions of people due to this one, little bug whose impact on humans can, albeit rarely, be lethal. As one physician pointed out, 99.9% of people less than 50 years of age who contract the virus will recover. But for those in my age group who have compromised immune systems and other co-morbidities, the prospect is serious and often lethal.
Premier Higgs has announced a health summit in June 2020 at the conclusion of a 3-month period of consultation with people in the province on health care issues. John McGarry, Chair of the Horizon Health Authority Board of Directors, has appropriately said that the summit must concentrate on more than rural health care issues and he is absolutely correct. Since the province started down the road of a planned approach to health care in 1992, there has been a long drought! Instead of rain in response to the drought we have seen for decades now a series of unrelated initiatives leaving the health system resembling a patchwork quilt.
There have been many health summits in recent years. During the term of David Alward, the Canadian College of Health Leaders and the Institute on Public Administration, both New Brunswick Chapters, held a summit in Moncton with Minister Flemming and Jeffrey Simpson. Not much has happened. Then the NB Medical Society sponsored really well-organized event involving some national leaders early in early 2015. What is aggravating to those of us close to the scene is that hopes get built up when these events are held and supported by our leaders. At both of these events, and there have been more, many of us walked away with a new spring in our step expressing hope and optimism.
Many of the issues faced by those who would offer leadership in healthcare services stem from incomplete understanding of the health field, hospitals, and professions and how they all come together. It is a unique, complex business with lines of accountability, or lack thereof, unlike any other! That, together with the fascination that the public has with doctors, nurses and hospitals, explains why Jeffrey Simpson refers to healthcare as the third rail in Canadian politics.
In times like these we need to bring back the images of Florence Nightingale and Dr. Malcolm MacEachern. Florence, of course, set the bar for nursing practice and professionalism. Dr. MacEachern was, a couple of generations ago, the father of Hospital Administration in North America and, indeed, around the world.
Ken McGeorge, BS,DHA,CHE is a career health care executive based in Fredericton, NB, Canada.