Senior health executives of my vintage would tell you “this is not my first rodeo”! We have seen major outbreaks of highly infectious diseases for as long as I have been alive which is 75 years! Polio was alive and not well when I was a kid with iron lungs as the way to save lives of thousands of people. Then Jonas Salk invented a vaccine which we, as school kids, took without any choice. Our family knew only one thing: with the vaccine the likelihood of tragic illness was all but eliminated; avoiding it left us with a great chance of getting a dreaded disease. So Rotary Club and Bill Gates Foundation have now made strides in the near elimination of polio worldwide.
Then measles, chicken pox, and influenza. Now, at our age and for good reason, we are doing the Shingles Vaccine because it is such an awful disease; vaccine is not a guarantee but lowers the risk enough to make it worth the $400 we pay!
Hats off to New Brunswick and its leadership. During this dreadful time of pandemic, with the cooperation of most of the population, but not all, the numbers seem to be favorable relative to the rest of North America. Thankfully, while frail elders and residents of long term care are prime targets, there have not yet been serious issues. The thanks for that can be given not only to provincial leadership but also to the rapid response of Nursing Homes and Special Care Homes. And the fact that 4 political parties are pulling together is a model for North America!
Have there been problems of execution of procedures? Yes indeed. Have employees and administrators responded with determination? You bet they have. Listening to operators share their experiences thus far shows the determination, dedication to residents, focus on safety that families would want to see and hear.
Well over a month into the journey ....
Prominent Wesleyan Pastor John Symonds and his wife, Willo Ann, created a song that is making the rounds on Facebook expressing the spirit of the proper response of the public to this pandemic: “Cough if you want to, sneeze if you will but I came here to stay…………it’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room, it’s a fight and not a game…..cough if you want to, sneeze if you will but I came here to stay”, sung by the piano in their living room! This folksy little song expresses the spirit of what officials are trying to get us to understand as the key method of preventing the spread of this disease. Just stay home!
But it is not entirely that simple for sick people need to be cared for, essential services provided, policing to be done, groceries to be on the shelves and secured, electricity needs to be generated and distributed, elders in homes and care facilities need to be cared for, fed, clothed, bathed and entertained.
Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell have been the calm, factual, steady face of the battle against this awful virus in New Brunswick and thankfully it has not gotten to the level that it could have at this stage were it not for rapid response.
The world continues to adjust to new and different times, many in shock, many experiencing the distress that always comes with such a crisis, many inflamed by what they hear or read either on social media or television or wherever is their source of information.
That the disease is dreadfully serious is well beyond question. It is taxing the energy of the wonderful health care professionals who provide care to those stricken with the virus. That health care facilities are distressed is beyond question, many having been at a point of crisis long before Covid-19!
Covid, and each of the viruses and infectious diseases that have preceded it, follows a familiar cycle: discovery in the country of origin, early management in that country, notification to the World Health Organization, alerts to other countries, and the international war on the disease commences. The war is always complicated because in the early days, little is known about the virus, how it behaves, how it is transmitted, what drugs and treatments are effective, if any, what the incubation periods are and much, much more that engaged thousands of brilliant people around the globe in research laboratories and regulatory centres.
Ken McGeorge, BS,DHA,CHE is a career health care executive based in Fredericton, NB, Canada.