“The level of care that we have gotten used to in our hospitals no longer exists” (The Atlantic 12/16/21). As outsiders (of the hospitals), our lifestyle with the COVID pandemic has somewhat improved, but the crisis still exists inside our hospitals. We were not prepared when the pandemic started, and we are not prepared for the future.
Like any living creature, viruses want to survive. So despite what we – as humans – feel, believe or think, the virus continues to mutate, adapt and live on. Hospitalizations due to COVID infections are rising in 42 states; hospitals are once again overwhelmed, and there has been a mass exit of healthcare providers leaving hospitals, due to the burdens of caring for COVID patients and the risks they impose. Patients with ruptured appendixes, broken bones, heart conditions, cancer and more are waiting for hours in emergency departments – often only to be transferred elsewhere because there are no beds. Elective surgeries for countless others are being postponed, and patients are dangerously delaying their surgeries. Our hospitals are very sick, the health care workers are living in constant crisis, and our society is not paying attention (Medscape, Dec. 2021). What happened to calling them “our heroes” as we did at the beginning of the pandemic?
We still have people refusing vaccinations and others not enforcing the wearing of masks indoors when we are in public places where the vaccination status is unknown. These two measures prevent the spread of infection, protect others, improve our quality of life including economics, and they are simple to do. We know what measures control the spread of variants – masks, better ventilation, testing, contact tracing, quarantine, and restrictions on gathering, but the U.S. has failed to invest in these tools and approaches. We will feel the pain, just like our hospitals are feeling it now.
As of December 13, 2021, Medscape (and other sources – see below) report the following statistics:
o improved ventilation
o rapid tests
o places where sick people can easily isolate
o paid sick leave and other policies that protect essential workers
o social distancing
o a stronger public-health system
o retaining the frayed healthcare workforce
Instead of trying to beat the coronavirus one booster at a time, the country needs to do what it has always needed to do—build systems and enact policies that protect the health of entire communities (The Atlantic 12/16/21).
The future behavior of the virus is unknown. We could experience endemics – with the holding of the virus in a tenuous stalemate. But there are other unknowns: If two variants or more end up co-circulating, then what we are seeing now is little league action compared to the major league action of what can happen with multiple variants at the same time. Like the previous variants, Omicron requires individuals to think and act for the collective good, and we have failed at this. We are witnessing defiance (like two-year olds having their temper tantrums) with too many people acting irrationally and stubbornly. We know the measures that work and even our public leaders are in denial. Yet our doctors and nurses are begging us to listen because they have the knowledge. We might want to believe that it will only impact the healthcare workers (and that in itself is a disgrace that many don’t care), but this crisis will trickle down to all of us. “Self-interest is self-defeating, and as long as its hosts ignore that lesson, the virus will keep teaching it.” (The Atlantic 12/16/21).
Charlotte Michos is a clinical nurse specialist who values personal-centered care and serves as a Healthcare Consultant in helping others make informed decisions. For more information, email her or call (845) 548-5980.
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