We have known from the beginning that it is a powerfully contagious virus and for those with underlying medical conditions, it is lethal. We know that and it is said that the vast majority of those dying during the pandemic have been persons with one or more co-morbid situations. In Italy, a major hot spot earlier on, it was 99.2% of persons who died that had at least one other illness. That makes frail elders and persons living with Chronic diseases vulnerable targets.
To the astute observer, information and knowledge seems to change almost daily as experience and research combine to help us understand what we have experienced and will yet experience. Pharma companies and university research labs around the globe are racing to be the first with a drug and first with a vaccine. The rewards for success are enormous.
In late 2019 the world heard about the outbreak of a strong virus but its seriousness on the world stage was not felt to be so serious. That led some of the major news outlets in the US to use terms like “pandemic panic” in assuring the public that this was nothing to worry about.
The first rule of politics: don’t ever waste a good crisis! In exercising the need to continue to cultivate voter support, times of crisis present a magnificent opportunity to curry favor with voters and potential voters. The longer the “crisis period”, the more opportunity for elected officials to raise the level of their political capital or spend it.
Such has been the case with the Covid-19 pandemic. In Canada we have been spared the drama that seems to play out in some jurisdictions; in some of these situations the stakes are enormous and competition for air time and influence is beyond anything we can fathom in New Brunswick.
But clearly, as the Canadian version of pandemic drama unfolds we see where “the ship is leaking” and the best that can be done now is to mitigate the risk and damage. In Canada, the eyes are clearly on Long Term Care. Covid-19 has brought deaths amongst seniors and residents of long-term care facilities to the fore. Thankfully, New Brunswick has been spared this drama in long term care.
The Prime Minister, in his Tuesday message, invested good air time assuring Canadians of Canada’s commitment to supporting the provinces in improving the system of Long-Term Care. His words of commitment and assurance constitute a message that seniors advocates have wanted to hear for decades: It is our seniors who built this country, who helped to get Canada to where it is today, and we need to see that their care is good and safe (a paraphrase).
In New Brunswick, that message has been communicated for many years by the Senior Citizens Federation, the Nursing Home Association, the Special Care Home Association, the Coalition of Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights, the Home Care Association, and others. Over 40 years ago, health planners and professional leaders were trying to prepare Canada for the day when Senior Care would need a higher priority.
The health and long-term care systems in Canada, however, are influenced strongly by the forces of the status quo, that being hospitals, emergency departments, professional interests, funding crises, and construction of superb facilities. In times leading up to elections, it seems that the public gives more credit for ribbon-cuttings and promises of new initiatives and funding than in the substance of what is behind those announcements.
Our lives have been forever changed with Covid-19, so say just about every informed observer of human behavior and public institutions. Just imagine….90 days ago our lives were moving blissfully along, snowbirds enjoying the south, New Brunswick political people debating an attempt to reform health care, rural communities upset, unions also not so happy.
And south of the border the press was wondering why people were concerned about a virus in China. The virus had already established itself firmly in Wuhan but United States media downplayed it as did prominent health authorities.
Ken McGeorge, BS,DHA,CHE is a career health care executive based in Fredericton, NB, Canada.