Medicine and Politics - Is it a good mix?
Before we begin. THINK about what makes sense to you as you read along.
What makes sense to you? I know when smoke is being blown up my rear, and people are stirring the shit pot.
I was planning to write about this topic, but received a request from a reader to talk about the politics of Covid-19. Being in medicine for over 30 years, I've learned a thing or two, and seen enough to last many lifetimes. Why am I writing this?
There are times that political bashings is not required.
Especially in a medical crisis.
What upsets me is everyone is watching the news and glued to their TV's and internet daily, learning about new developments. I am sick and tired of seeing our leaders, FEMA, and others, battered to death about foolish issues. The first thing you learn in any crisis is to fix the problem. Once that's done, you debrief and see where things went wrong and fix them for the future. Every critical thinking situation works that way. WHY? BECAUSE IT WORKS.
Let me give you one example, and there are many more, but this one stands out. I get it. A jouralist needs to dig, get the story, dig up the facts as well as the dirt. It's news. However, when does it become anti-productive and place doubt and fear in the mnds of the public during a medical crisis such as this? I watched an interview with Peter Gaynor, from FEMA the other day. He is responsible for the allocations of supplies. Who interviewed ihim is irrelevant.
Many of you may have seen it. The journalist conducting the interview kept insisting on getting an answer to why the federal stockpiles have not been totally depleted to meet the demand. The question was repeatedly answered, the same way each time. Mr. Gayor kept stating, "I have to think about today, tomorrow, and the next weeks." He further noted that more supplies were being sent to the highest affective areas first. This was not stated once, it was stated multiple times as the question kept being repeated to the point of badgering, at least in my opinion. Also, the interviewer wanted dates, amounts, etc. I'm sure that little earpiece to receive messages from the producer was going crazy. The impression I got was that the interviewer kept asking these questions to make it appear he was lying. That's just my opinion of course. YEsterday, the President gave his update. He spent roughly ten minutes quotes date, amount, and types of supplies sent to affect areas. A total waste of ten minutes when we need to know more pertinent information. The dates, amounts, and type of supplies means nothing. Supplies were sent.
HERE IS THE COMMON SENSE PART. Who in their right mind would ever totally deplete all our supplies? Some number of supplies need to be held back should something acute happened elsewhere. Do we just send the whole inventory to one place and screw the rest of the country? Or, do we allocate, meaning, send more to where they are needed, and less to areas less affected, and keep a reserve should an acute outbreak happen somewhere else. Everyone believes just because production is ramped up, orders are placed, the product immediately happens, and by the gift of magic dust, it appears where it is needed.
First, the supplies it need to be manufactured, inspected, packed, shipped, and be delivered to where they are needed. That does NOT happen overnight. It takes days. People are working around the clock seven days a week to meet the demand. For God's sake, stop badgering them. Every interview I watch, someone states, "It's happening." Well, it is, but it's not going to happen overnight. With regards to stockpiles. HERE ARE SOME FACTS.
MEDICAL SUPPLY COMES WITH AN EXPIRATION DATE. These dates are determined by when the materials might degrade to the point where they are no longer effective as designed. To stock billions for years without being used is useless. I worked as a paramedic in a high volume innercity. We had a call volume that exceeded over 90,000 calls each year. That was for one out of five regions in the state that I worked in. You could NEVER have the amount of personnel on duty 24/7 to cover every POTENTIAL disaster that could occur. There is an old saying that goes like this. "We can staff for call history we have with an added percentage for increased volume. We cannot staff for calls we do not know will occur."
This is why EVERY first responder system works under a mutual aid plan. If a disaster, someitmes refferred to as an MIC, (mass casulaty inncident), occurs, the sytem has the ability to pool resources. They can use the entire states resources, and even federal resoures if needed. Just as we are doing now. However, at times, even that may not be enough. This is our present situation. Look at is this way. Sometimes a firefighter will start another fire to stop the spread of one already burning. That's called a controlled burn. Isn;t that what the CDC is doing now? Stay home, social distancing, clsoing non-essentail business. "A CONTROLLED BURN TO STOP THE SPREAD."
Another thing I heard reprted was, a form of a new virus was predicted last year and ignored. Why weren't we ready? No country has the resources to be prepared for every prediction. I can predict the same. Anyone who knows anything about science and medicine will tell you viruses mutate. It is possible to have a pandemic becuase of a new strain of virus any year. History has shown us this. If you believe our healthcare costs are high now, imagine in a perfect world if we had a hospital bed and available staff for every person on the earth, at any given time? Now factor in supplies, and your cost rising expodentially.
In medicine we plan for disasters. We train for them, we stock supplies, within reasonable parameters, for what we may need, without having to throw so much away due to expirations dates because they are never used. In the private sector, they can rotate stock, when you are stock piling reseves, you would have to rotate them as well into the private sector in order to not throw them out when they expire. That alone would cost millions to manage. As a medic I would check the expiration dates of the medications I carried at the start of every shift. Some medications we use on a regular basis, others, not so much. On the fire department would would send back boxes of expired meds that were not used. However, we needed to stock them just in case. Some of that is the cost of doing business. The trick is to draw a comfortable line as to how much to stock. It's not a perfect system, and every system has room for improvement. When an event occurs, we learn, and improve on the system.
Everyone asks why aren't vaccines or meds developed yet to combat this virus? Does it make sense to blindly administer medications without knowing the effect they might have? Some testing MUST be done or we run the risk of killing people that might not have died. Like it or not, you cannot blindly move forward.
Before we can understand a reaction, we must understand the cause. As it pertains to Covid-19, the world is still trying to understand the cause, origin, and learning more about the virus and how it will affect us each day. NO ONE IS A MASTER OF THIS DISEASE. We cannot predict when a virus will occur, yet alone mutate. However, history has shown us that viruses will. No one can develop a vaccine for a virus that they do not know is going to exist, or what future strains will develop. That is one of the problems with the flu shot. Once a new strain comes out each year, the new vaccine is for the previous year. Therefore, the flu shot will help, but may not be totally effective against the new strain. Makes sense, right?
That is NOT an anti-productive process. It's a realistic process. Should someone get the flu after receiving the shot, the hopes are it will be a milder case. Of course, the science goes much deeper, but for the purpose of this post, I do not need to make a medical researcher out of you. The important thing is that we understand the process, the public, and how they will react to a given situation. Keep this in mind. A human reaction is directly proportional to how things are presented to them. Meaning, presnt panic, and you will get panic. Present calm, and youi will get calm. It's not what we say, it's how we say it that causes the problem. HOW WE PRESENT IT.
FACTORS TO KNOW:
The most common factors that affect the way a person will react to what they hear, and there are more:
1. Will or can it, affect them?
2. The media, how it is presented,
3. Politics, just read on.
The old saying goes, "Believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you see."
- Edgar Allen Poe
In days of old, when technology as we know it did not exist, that might have been true. Today, studies show that the majority of people most of what they hear and read. Why wouldn't they? Between the unprofessional conduct of many in politicians and other professions, anything is possible, right? People are not bad by nature. No politician or journalist is trying to hurt you, they are also victims. Maybe we all are victims of a society we created or allowed to be created. The vast majority of people are followers, not leaders. It's much easier to be the one following the person in front of you rather then being the one lead the crowd and not knowing what's in front of you. As a follower, you do not have to make any choices, especially the hard choices. You can sit back and criticize those that do, because of course, we all know it all. We all have free will, and can only be led so far before we might decide to leave the crowd. Here's another saying I like because it's true;
Opinions are like rear ends. Everyone has one.
This is normal, and people have the right to them. However, they do not have the right to try to destroy someone because they disagree with them. Especially when they are playing Monday morning quarterback and do not have the knowledge or data to back up their comments. Social media is great for this. Every user can solve the problems of the world with one post.
I have provided you some basic information. But how does this affect the three items I mentioned? Let's look at number 1 and 2, and put yourself in each position. When you are faced with an issue, isn't this the first thing you think to yourself? Does this have anything to do with me? If you believe something will affect you, you will attach yourself to it and form an opinion. The chips will fall as they will. It has now become personal for you.
If not, you think to yourself, "Screw this, it has nothing to do with me, and it's not my problem."
The bigger issue being, if you attached yourself to it, what resources are you using to arrive at an opinion? Here are some common ones.
The news media, let's face it. We all watch the news.
You put this all together and you form an opinion. The problem is, much of your opinion is based on the opinions of others. REMEMBER: In order to have an unbiased opinion, you need to do your own research.
What number 3 on the list? The media. I read many articles and social media posts where many people are criticizing the media for aiding in creating people's panic concerning Covid-19. I am sure this is an unintentioal by product of their desire to keep the public informed. I believe the media wants to exactly that. I only question the methods. However, there comes a time when in certain cases, and I believe this is one, they need to be part of support process. Send a positive message while informing us about the facts. This helps reduce fear and panic. Fear and panic that caused people to run to the stores and buy up everything, which by the way is still happeneing. Thinking they would need these supplies for weeks, or even months, without regard for others. Now, those who need important essentials cannot get them.
I believe the administration dropped the ball when this first started by NOT placing limits on the amount of certain products people could buy when they saw this developing. Now this is on place. It's funny, I went to the store yeaterday to get some things. In the paper goods isle there were signs that said, limit, two per customer. The shelves were empty. I've seen news footage of people leaving stores with carriages full of toilet paper. Someone wasn't thinking.
Of course, this immediately gains our attention. We watch and wait to hear the next news annoucement that sounds like doomsday has arrived. A news report is like a show. A form of entertainment. A dear friend of mine is an anchor person for a news station. I find it funny that when he goes to work he does not say he is going to report the news. He says he is going to do his show. The news is a form of entertainment. We hope the information is accurate.The networks compete for your views. It increases their ratings. Whoever presents the best show get more viewers and higher rating. Therefore, more advertisers will advertise on that network. It's simple math and economics. I AM NOT SAYING THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT.
The other day I watched a news broadcast when the President and some of his task force members provided an update and answered questions. On two issues, a statement was made. However, the data had been updated and another task force member interupted and provided the current data. After the interview was over, I watched the commentary portion. That quesstions was mentioned by the commentator showing the clip with the incorrect data. Not the updated data. At least on the station I was watching. What about those that watch it later, and never hear the correct data?Airtime is short. That is why we only see a brief clips of something. Therefore, that is all we hear, and all we know. Trust me. From my experience on critical medical calls or fires that were reported on the news, a short clip many times DOES NOT accurately represent what happened. The result be