Health services are not living with Covid, they're dying from it

July 24, 2022

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Health services are not living with Covid, they're dying from it

Health services all around the world are breaking down. In the US there is a mass exodus of health care workers fed up with the stressors that are put upon them by Covid-19. In Australia, the increasing hospitalization—and death—rate due to the current wave of the pandemic is putting an almost intolerable strain on the medical system.

And, as if the present was not bad enough, a new variant with the lethal capability of Delta and Omicron’s ability to evade immune response generated by vaccines or prior infection, is, researchers say, inevitable.

And yet increasingly people go into crowded places maskless, governments want to lessen the remaining restrictions, and scientists and medical regulators cry out in frustration against this folly. This is not the post-Covid era some would have us believe.

Now is the time to face the fact that the Western world’s attempt to ‘live with Covid’ is the straw that is breaking the back of health services. The editors of the BMJ and the Health Service Journal (HSJ) published a joint editorial looking at the situation in the UK, but their remarks are just as pertinent to the situation in almost all countries where Tribe members live.

What the editors say: They warn that at no other time in the last 50 years have so many parts of the NHS been so close to ceasing to function effectively – “the heart of the problem is the failure to recognize that the pandemic is far from over and that a return to some of the measures taken in the last two years is needed,” the authors wrote.

“Above all, the government must stop gaslighting the public and be honest about the threat the pandemic still poses to them and the NHS. Being honest with the public will have two positive results, it will encourage the public to modify behavior and, we hope, provoke urgent reflection about how the NHS is in such a mess so soon after the nation was applauding it on their doorsteps,” they conclude.

2022 was meant to be the year of full-speed recovery, they write. Instead, the NHS has already experienced two further Covid waves, and weekly admissions to English hospitals, for those who test positive for Covid-19, have so far averaged just over 9,000 compared with just under 6,000 in 2021. The average in 2020 was just under 7,000.

By now the NHS had also hoped to be operating better than before the pandemic; instead, elective activity is around 10% below 2019 levels.

Along with the pressures created by the climate-change caused heatwave and that most visible sign of healthcare failure—ambulances queuing outside hospitals—they say “today may be the most difficult day the NHS has ever experienced.”

Yet the British government—like those in Australia and elsewhere—is responding to this crisis largely by pretending it is not happening or implying it is all under control, the editors argue.

In the UK House of Lords last week, for example, government health spokesperson Lord Kammal repeated the spurious line: “We managed to break the link between infections and hospitalizations and hospitalizations and death.” It was an outright lie.

The link between infections and hospital admissions has not been broken, even if you just consider those being treated “primarily” for the disease, the authors explain.

As for deaths, the latest ONS figures indicate just under 24,000 fatalities “involving Covid” in the first six months of 2022—substantially smaller than the 66,000 recorded in the first half of 2021, but it is more than the 21,000 people who died in the last six months of that year. In Australia, about 1,400 people are dying each month and in the US 41,000 people a day are hospitalized with the disease—up 20% over the last two weeks.

Excess deaths from all causes are also still running above five-year averages before the pandemic.

The editors call for a return to some of the measures taken in the last two years, such as advising people to wear masks in crowded places, ensuring good ventilation, and re-introducing free tests for the public. Efforts must also be made to improve the population’s immunity through vaccination.

And governments must work out how they will support the sections of the population and the economy that will be affected by those measures, they add.

So, what? At the moment, we seem to be hellbent on giving in to the threats that face us as a species on this planet. We have no real plan to deal with the inevitable next pandemic, we have given up on climate change (look at the recent steep fall in the share prices of companies that are developing alternative energy sources), and no one is regulating AI even as it controls more and more of our lives and robs us of our individual data—perhaps our personhood. Only war and disease will now save us from devastating population growth. And so on.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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