COVID-19 has drastically impacted all facets of life. Health care has been at the center of this pandemic, and those working in health care have seen the crisis and the progress made first-hand. As we reflect on the impact this pandemic has, we have seen the worst and the best in our healthcare system.
1. The scientific and medical community is interconnected and together they can achieve amazing things. If we reflect on the last year, we can see how much the scientific and medical community has accomplished. Scientists pioneered the genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 strains and now developed multiple COVID-19 vaccines (a process that typically takes years). The first mRNA vaccine was developed. The industry developed antibody tests and antigen tests to allow rapid testing to allow isolation and quarantine and reduce the spread of the virus. Clinical researchers and the explosion of clinical trials helped identify effective treatments, drugs, and vaccines. And finally, public health epidemiologists were crucial in preventing and mitigating the virus. By working together, we understand the virus, discover ways to control and treat the disease, and develop vaccines, all in a year and a half.
2. Our health system has areas for improvement. In addition to rapid progress and achievements, this pandemic has exposed disparities and inequities within the health care system. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Latino and Black communities, as well as low-income populations. Many people lost their health insurance in the past year due to layoffs, leave, and long-term unemployment. The cost of health care and the lack of affordable health insurance also forced people to postpone doctor visits. We must recognize disparities in the health care system, engage with those involved, and work together to develop policies and practices that promote equity in health.
3. Our healthcare system and healthcare workers are creative, adaptable, and flexible. Over the past year, medical care and childbirth have changed dramatically. As case counts increased, hospitals converted non-patient care areas into patient care areas, increased bed and intensive care capacity, implemented telemonitoring, and used iPads and tablets to keep patients connected with your families. Field hospitals were used to cope with the overflow of patients. Telemedicine became popular, especially with family medicine and outpatient care, as well as with mental health providers. And mass testing centers and vaccination clinics were organized and mobile units were deployed to reach rural and underserved areas.
4. We must take care of those who take care of everyone. The past year has had a great impact, both physically and emotionally, on our doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and all healthcare workers. It has been a particularly stressful year, between the isolation of family and friends, the fear of contracting the disease and spreading it to loved ones, long working hours, the increase in the number and acuteness of patients and the high number of deaths. Many feel the effects and increase exhaustion, anxiety, depression and even suicide. These healthcare workers have been there for patients when their family members weren’t allowed to visit, they have held hands with patients when they pass away, and have provided the best possible care for these patients in a time of uncertainty. We must remember to care for those who care for everyone if we expect them to continue to provide the best care possible.
Christine Lau he is a doctor.
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