Perplexed

It seems that this year I’ve written continuously about the pandemic. Well, when I’ve had the urge to blog that is. But here I am again.

As many of my followers know, I work as a physiotherapist, and I also write books – science fiction and fantasy. (Shameless plug: you can check them out and buy them if you like!)

Working in health in a pandemic has been…interesting. While we’ve always had to spend time explaining to our patients why their self diagnosis is not quite right, or actually just plain wrong, and that Dr Google isn’t necessarily a good place, it seems that the pandemic has emphasised this kind of discussion tenfold.

What is it about a pandemic that sends people away from mainstream health to YouTube for their health advice? I mean, what perplexes me most, is that people who are generally quite rational and would happily have their appendix removed by a doctor, have suddenly decided that the same doctor is not an appropriate person with whom to discuss their pandemic concerns. Or their vaccine concerns.

They are the same people who have suddenly become terrified about what might be in a Covid vaccine, yet aren’t concerned about the ingredients in the local anaesthetic the GP uses to remove a mole. But they will take advice from a shock jock on radio, or a ‘maverick’ doctor with ‘interesting’ credentials on YouTube. I really don’t understand this.

Currently, we have 4,929 people with Covid in this wave of the Sydney (maybe NSW now) outbreak. There are 362 people in hospital. There are 58 people in ICU.

I’ve seen some people still denying that the pandemic exists, that it’s actually a problem, or suggesting that we just ‘let it rip.’ As we’ve lived in mining towns for over three decades, we have friends and social media friends, all over Australia. Consequently I reckon we’ve seen pretty well every bit of information on the spectrum, from science based/mainstream health all the way to the whackiest conspiracy theories.

On the subject of the ‘let it rip’ philosophy, I suspect that people don’t really understand what this means, or haven’t believed the numbers coming in from overseas.

You see, even though Australia has a pretty good public health system, it’s generally pretty busy, and you only have to google ‘ambulance ramping’ to see just how busy things are in some areas. So when we have an extra 362 people in hospital, and an extra 58 people in ICU, the busy hospitals are placed under quite a bit of pressure. When you add hospital staff being unwell into the equation, then it’s all very complicated.

The bottom line of course, is that not only Covid-19 happens during a pandemic. As a physio working in private practice, we’re still considered essential. And if the last lockdown is anything to go by, I can say without any doubt at all, that people still injure themselves during pandemics. They break limbs, tear ligaments, have motor vehicle accidents, and have life threatening health events not related to the pandemic.

The problem then, is that if a big chunk of the health services are tied up with people ill with Covid-19, then care will be less for all of those other people – simply because the resources are running out, both human and material. In the worst case scenario, people will die from normally treatable problems, not just Covid-19 because there is nothing or no-one, left to treat them.

The first sign of health system stress in NSW, is that elective surgeries have been cancelled in Sydney. This affects people. They don’t get cataract surgery, or hip replacements, or gall bladders removed. They don’t have non-urgent procedures. They still have to deal with pain, disability, and anxiety related to all of that.

As I write, my local government area is in Day Three of a one week snap lockdown after Covid cases were detected further down the valley. (I live in the Upper Hunter). So far we don’t have any cases here, but we have hundreds of DIDO workers (drive in/drive out) who live elsewhere and drive in to work here. Some of them come from Covid areas. So far so good. Hopefully we’ll be out of lockdown in a week as long as the cases reduce, or stay down the valley.

But maybe we won’t. And if we have to do another week, or a month, or longer, then I’m OK with that. Because in the end, my comforts are not actually the reason for not complying. It’s about the whole community. Personally, I’m fortunate. I’m one of the approximately 18% of Australians who are fully vaccinated. And tomorrow, I’ll come home from work to a nice dinner cooked by my husband, who is also an essential worker, and has been enjoying my home cooking all weekend. Lucky him!

In other news, a lovely friend made me a very special face mask. It’s got books on it!

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