One for all – and all for one
So far, one positive element experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increased collaboration between colleagues from different disciplines; often driven by the obligatory new ways of working. For example, what some specialties find obvious from near-daily experience, such as ventilating patients in theatre or in ICUs, have suddenly become the focus and learning for other specialties seconded to the former. On the part of the experienced colleague, this produces a disorienting mixture of anxiety along the lines: ‘How do I exactly drive my car? Yes, I do it every day but without really thinking how. Now I have to teach and explain to a ‘novice’ quickly how to do it.’
This anxiety is compounded by the fact that training has to be completed as succinctly and quickly as possible (while wearing full PPE) as every minute spent training takes attention dangerously away from the patient, and, as realised at the end of the day, is so exhausting.
Still, consider all the poor people – key workers, wherever – who were not able to have the full PPE readily at their disposal!
We know that full PPE has been doing its job: colleagues worked out, with the restricted data available, that across the UK no casualties have been encountered amongst anaesthetists and critical care physicians working in the ‘danger zone’. How did they stay safe? In most cases by considering ALL patients potentially COVID-positive until proven otherwise, long before COVID could be detected.
Evidently, one can ‘overdo’ it with PPE, but amateur infection control and inappropriate risk assessment are a dangerous thing; as not only statistics have shown. A serious debate will have to take place on how we have sufficient and the right PPE available next time – and yes, there will be a next time. Will it rely on good-ol’ but expensive stock piling, or the newer, cheaper ‘just-in-time’ delivery? With the perceived end of the cold war, and reaffirmed more recently, plenty of countries in the world decided together, years ago, to adopt the latter, gradually getting rid of their PPE stocks. For many years, it is known, worldwide, that most PPE is (more cheaply) produced in China. With all of these counties in need of the same, at the same time, it turned out to become a rather ‘just-too-late’ delivery, and VERY expensive, both in money and lives – and we can’t blame the Chinese for that.
What are your thoughts? What measures can the UK take to ensure correct equipment is available during any future pandemics?