I’ve been thinking some more about the subject of yesterday’s ‘sound off’. This post will be a little less angry and a bit more considered. It starts with the often heard complaint, in both the UK and Ireland, that their respective health services are under resourced. We should, it is claimed, have been better prepared for the current crisis.
My job as a project engineer frequently involved finding solutions to problems of resource allocation. Usually these were in situations where demand was predictable. I can well imagine, then, that it is far from easy to ensure the right human and hardware resources are available as and when needed to deal with the complex demands of a service whose principle objective is the treatment of disease.
No organisation likes to have people with specialised skills standing by, ready to respond to the call for reinforcements; or complex high tech equipment sitting idle for long periods. This is equally as true in a private, insurance funded, service as in a nationalised service.
There were times, too, in my former life, when I was involved in politics. So I know that the margin between the perception that a service is under-funded and over-stretched and the point at which the loudest accusation is that it is over-staffed and inefficient can be quite narrow. Should we ever hear the latter accusation, at some time in the distant future, in relation to health services, we can counter by saying “remember 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic”.
Meanwhile we are where we are and have to manage with what we have. We also have to remember that health care professionals can catch the virus too and have to take time off in order to recover, thereby further reducing the number of staff available to be deployed.
It seems to me that it is incumbent upon all of us, not withstanding our dismay at the past failure of politicians to adequately fund the service, to do all in our power to reduce the demands placed upon it. Not, I hasten to add, by choosing not to present for treatment of potentially serious ailments, as many are reported to have done, but by limiting our social contacts so as to slow the spread of the virus, thereby reducing the number of people requiring hospital treatment for it.
Not so long ago there was a great outpouring of gratitude for front line workers. Now is the time to turn that gratitude into genuine concern by adhering to the restrictions, even if that means doing without some of life’s greatest pleasures for a few more weeks.
I hope, too, that this time, when the restrictions are lifted, there is no more nonsense from the government, such as encouraging people to go back to their usual work place simply to provide business for coffee shops and sandwich bars in our city centres, or subsidising the middle classes to dine out on food that those serving it cannot afford to eat.