Friday, May 15, 2020
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Our guest writer today is Roger Carlton, columnist for The Graham Star newspaper in Robbinsville, NC. Thank you, Roger, for more thought provoking words.
The higher up you are in government the tougher the crisis management job. Mayors and County officials must make local decisions like closing certain roads and how much to invest in emergency medical services. Governors must make state-wide decisions like closing schools and limiting the number of people who can gather. The President must decide how to allocate critical supplies like ventilators and face masks, when to activate medical ships and where to send them and shutting down airports.
President Truman decided to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing or maiming more than 200,000 people. This ended World War II and saved more than 1 million lives if we had to invade Japan. He famously said "The buck stops here." Attorney General Janet Reno mishandled a crisis when she blew up 76 Branch Dividians near Waco Texas. She accepted responsibility and moved on.
The Governor of Louisiana and Mayor of New Orleans failed when they allowed Mardi Gras to go on and are now paying the price. Their strategy was cry that they weren't warned. Local officials in South Florida and the Governor blew it when they allowed spring breakers to mingle on the beaches. Unfortunately the hotel and restaurant lobby overcame the medical experts. Florida is paying the price now.
More than three years ago, this column was about the election of President Trump and a concept known as "loyal opposition." This means that he was our president and while you may not support his policies and actions, he was still our president and leader. During the past three years, his ability to earn respect and support has been an inverted Bell Curve. Straight down to a Pollyanna ignoring of the expert warnings of a pandemic and then straight up to supporting three relief bills and then down again with a thinking out loud blunder suggesting a quarantine of nearly 20 million people in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Overall, to be fair, his performance has improved and that is showing in his approval ratings.
Suggesting that we need to get people back into churches by Easter and get the economy going is a difficult choice. If we lessen the current strictures on our lives, many more people will die from the virus than necessary. There may also be a lessening of the risks to our economy if the 3.2 million people who filed for unemployment last week and millions more this week, might begin to be able to go back to work. Dying people and their grieving families versus people who can't put food on the table. How would you like to have to make that choice?
The thought process that most top leaders follow is called "utilitarianism." Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Thomas Hobbes all influenced this thinking in the late 1700's when the Industrial Revolution was tearing up traditional societal norms. Utilitarianism instructs leaders that ethical decision making is creating the greatest good for the greatest number of people. To make decisions in this context requires expertise, contemplation and empathy. It also steps on justice and individual rights. Tough stuff when you think about it.
Friday, April 3, 2020
As we all continue to distance ourselves from other people and sanitize everything we touch or that comes into our houses, I can't help but worry about all the older and chronically ill people who have been exposed to the COVID-19, and the families of those who have died.
I can't help but wonder how many would have been saved had we begun fighting this months ago. I can't help but think that what I've said for many years, we have a broken health care system, has proven to be so true, and now we hear that from many people who didn't make much noise in the past.
I knew our health care system was not the best in the world when my family members (four or more) died from medical mistakes. It became horribly evident to me when the best health care system failed my husband.
His care was a grotesque medley of mistakes from the wrong diagnosis in the beginning to the end of his life after a team of doctors in Emory Hospital incorrectly diagnosed him with an infectious disease. They filled him with antibiotics, even after they were told he was fighting cancer. I knew the cancer had come roaring back, but those smart physicians refused to contact his cancer doctor in Blairsville. Hospitals and physician practices are in competition. I didn’t know that, but learned the hard way.
I wish it had not taken a pandemic to prove my words. Our hospitals, poorly prepared, with insufficient supplies and far too few nurses, evidently had made no preparation for the day when a health crisis would explode this country. From what I have read and heard these past weeks, scientists and smart medical people who tried to warn us were ignored. In 2015, Bill Gates said we were not prepared for a deadly virus that would be coming.
Our pompous leaders fell way behind on preparing us, and we the people buried our heads in the sand, not wanting to believe we were not the best. We have heard and preached to ourselves that we are the best until we believed it. Or, we did believe it until a few weeks ago.
I am sympathetic to Senator Sanders who has proclaimed for years that we need a new method of health care. We need a central system where all people can be fairly treated. But that is not the basics of this problem to me.
My husband and I had insurance and could see doctors, but the administrators are more dollar-minded than healing-minded. Even now hospitals have been fighting over who will get the supplies needed in this crisis. With no federal oversight, it has come down to governors trying to purchase the needed supplies. Hospitals in NYC are overrun with sick people while some hospitals, where there are fewer patients, still have masks and gowns. The governors in those states hold on to them because they fear what will be coming. It makes for states competing with each other and our citizens paying the price.
I imagine some hospitals hoarded their ventilators because of what they expect will happen in their area soon. Small hospitals like Phoebe Putney in Albany, Georgia, were swamped with coronavirus patients and were not prepared at all. Not enough nursing help, not nearly enough ventilators, and not enough protection for the medical staff. Where could they go for help? We had no plan in place for such a disaster.
This deadly virus will kill thousands of people and I think many could be saved if only we had proactive people in leadership. But, I was told by a city government employee, government is always reactive. That is why two or three people have to die at an intersection before a stop light is installed or any effort is made to prevent what might happen next.
I have been accused of over-reacting, but I would rather over-react by taking precautions than wait and and see. By then it is often too late.
We need more people in leadership who look for approaching problems and prepare for them, not wait until they have to react, as we are doing now.
What do you think? Are you one to act on your concerns before they become major? Do you think our leaders in this pandemic acted soon enough?