Cathy Majtenyi: Show some care for those caring for us

  • May 6, 2021

A woman passes by a crowd protesting public-health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Her destination? The hospital, to visit her husband, intubated and fighting for his life from the virus.

A doctor with two young children heading up her hospital’s pandemic response unit is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s broken by continuous 18-hour days, the gruelling COVID-19 caseload and the many conversations she’s had with families of those who died.

The doctor, her colleagues and families of the sick and dying have been begging, pleading with an increasingly indifferent and even hostile public to take COVID-19 public-health measures seriously.

Two separate worlds exist: those who are affected by COVID-19 — patients and their family and friends, medical professionals, frontline workers, people living in high-risk neighbourhoods — and those who are not. They talk at each other, through each other, but not with each other.

COVID-19 has turned out to be the great polarizer in society, pitting family members, friends, strangers, individuals and groups against one another.

People are divided on so many issues: Does COVID actually exist? Is it merely a flu that affects a very tiny minority? What is the scope of rights and freedoms? Where does responsibility come in? Are pandemic measures an excuse for the government to pave the way for a One World Government or other end-times prediction?

Whatever beliefs people hold, and however burned out most are following a year of restrictions, it’s important for us all to research, understand and implement to the best of our ability basic measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

There are two very important reasons for doing this.

First, people are genuinely sick and dying. It’s a huge stretch of logic and imagination to accept that the multitude of scenes captured in photos and on videos here and everywhere around the world is staged, or that the scores of doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals issuing warnings are lying about the situation.

COVID-19 is also the great unequalizer:

  • People who identified as being Arab, Middle Eastern, West Asian, Latin American, South East Asian or Black had a hospitalization rate of 119.3 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 62.4 cases per 100,000 people among white populations;
  • 81 per cent of first-wave deaths in Canada occurred in long-term care homes;
  • 14 per cent of sick leave taken by workers earning less than $16,000 a year was paid, while employees with the highest income had 74 per cent of leaves covered by employers.

These and other numbers convey the stark cruelty that COVID hits the poor, elderly and racialized disproportionately hard compared to middle- and upper-class, younger, white Canadians, although even that group is not immune.

The Word of God, our faith and the Church demands that we care for the sick, poor and marginalized in our society. Wearing a mask, practising social distancing and managing our social contacts wisely are solid ways we can acknowledge the suffering of the vulnerable and show solidarity towards them.

There’s a second reason why we need to follow health measures now to avoid a potentially catastrophic future.

On April 24, Global News featured a report on the high burnout rate among medical professionals such as doctors, nurses and personal support workers, with some 77 per cent who care for COVID patients reporting that their mental health has deteriorated, according to Statistics Canada.

The anxiety, exhaustion, guilt, anger and overall stress health-care workers experience for 10 or more hours day after day can only be sustained for so long.

On top of the horrific job demands, health-care workers are heavily discouraged when they see people ignoring or belittling public-health measures. Their hard work is in vain; what’s the point of carrying on when society denies and disregards the importance of protecting each other against a virus that is putting increasing pressure on the health-care system?

The result? “You can have capacity, but what if you don’t have nurses? What if you don’t have doctors?” a nurse explains. Notes the TV reporter: “The fear is there could be a mass exodus among Canada’s health-care workers, impacting the entire system for years to come.”

Abiding by public-health measures sends a strong message of solidarity to the brave, strong souls who care for us in our times of need. We support them in a practical way by doing what we can to keep people healthy and out of the hospital. We must treasure our health workers: They care for us and they need us to care for them.

(Majtenyi is a public relations officer who specialized in research at an Ontario university.)

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