President's blog --- April 2020
COVID-19: “We have all been in this together”
Kia ora koutou katoa
We are hopefully in the final week of level 4 ‘Lockdown,’ looking longingly ahead to an announcement the Government has said it will make this Monday about the state of play after April 22nd. We can speculate wildly, and in fact, in the absence of betting on sporting events, the water cooler competition is replaced by “who guessed correctly about the next National phase of COVID-19 strategy?” Will it be negative-Pete from HR who guessed another four weeks at level 4, or Karen from marketing with a regional patchwork-strategy for mixed Level 3 or 4, or will it be Ursula, who thinks we should have gone the Swedish way all along and plugged for voluntary restrictions and herd immunity?
More seriously though, whatever the decision be made at a national level, I believe we can all look back at the last month or so and be very proud of the end result for New Zealand. There are many who foresaw the pandemic months ago, perhaps even purchasing masks in early February, then there are those whose life’s work is predicting and mapping such events, or others, like myself, who were largely preoccupied with all the other aspects of life until the penny dropped in early March. Wherever you fit, and whatever your opinion on what should have been done earlier, or harder, or faster or for longer or shorter, we have all been in this together, and have all contributed to the current standout result. The clusters from events (weddings, conferences, school performances) and their at-times tragic ramifications, are evidence that we would not have been immune to a New York, London, Wuhan or Bergamot situation. But we did the right thing and we stayed mostly at home.
To all of you who were not able to stay at home, and have been going to work and learning new skills like the correct use of the words ‘donning’ and ‘doffing’, or performing N95 mask fit testing etc., thank you for your work. I love my job and most of the time feel exceptionally fortunate to be in this situation, however, in the last four weeks there have been times when I was not so happy about my occupation. Realising that one of our fundamental skills puts us and our teammates at increased risk of contracting coronavirus is unsettling to say the least. I know many colleagues have shared my experiences of insomnia and others have suffered from heightened anxiety and increased melancholy, all at a time when our usual stress relievers, like meeting up with mates, watching or playing sport, or a hug from a friend, are not feasible.
All the effort to acquire the PPE we may still need and the continued efforts to ensure PPE supply is secure are appreciated. The amount of mental energy and bandwidth required at my hospital to get us to where we are now helps explain why Wuhan and North Italy were so overwhelmed. To get all the policies, plans, mask fitting and training in place has required an enormous amount of energy and time. We have had clear guidance from the Medical Council about taking care of ourselves first and if requisite PPE is unavailable, that our first responsibility is to ourselves. Other countries are not so fortunate to have a national system where such critical information is so quickly decided, and then rapidly communicated to those who need to know.
Post COVID-19 life will be different. We have learnt so much over the last two months and none of the new skills acquired will go to waste. We have been asked to work differently, e.g. to consider each intubation as needing droplet precautions, or working from home when we can – and like our spouses, family and friends, we have learnt to zoom – socially or for formal meetings (I recommend video off if still wearing pyjamas)!
We will have to rethink how we do our CPD as our borders will be closed for some months, maybe years. The silver lining is that there is room for innovation and ‘out of the box’ thinking for those with such talents. With that in mind, a decision on the format of the Combined Scientific Congress in Wellington in October will be made in the next few weeks. We will keep you updated. Keep well and thank you again for your collective commitment to keep our communities safe.
I hope that you all remain well, take pride in our specialty featuring on the cover of Time magazine as being at the frontline of the pandemic, and continue to give the high level of care we trained for and are now a little more known for.
As autumn beckons and parts of Australia have gone from fire to hail, I hope you have all had a reasonable start to 2020.
Ka kite ano,