It will be delusional to believe that you will not be affected by coronavirus. Yes, if you are young and healthy and if you have good immunity, you might end up asymptomatic or escape with mild symptoms. The elderly are at higher risk of complications, as are pregnant women. But the folks who will be most hit by the virus will be healthcare providers. Fortunately or unfortunately, corona will not distinguish between a senior faculty or a junior doctor or a nurse or an attendant. We all will be equally at risk. And we all have families. So are we really prepared to face the onslaught that will be upon us in a few weeks from now?
The sad truth is that most doctors make terrible administrators. Our education system is such that you are trained to be hyper-competitive and you end as an autonomous being with a bloated ego. You perceive yourselves as ‘consultants’ who should be consulted, and you hardly learn the art of listening. But will that attitude work during this period of crisis?
This is battle time. Are the troops prepared to rally around their generals? Are they inspirational enough to lead by example? The tragic state of affairs in most hospitals is that administrators are merely shooting off emails, directives and circulars like missiles. Have they found time to talk to their people in person, reassure them, gain their trust and behave with responsibility? Or have you turned off people with sarcasm in your voice and a shrug of your shapely shoulders? The onus of being infected cannot be transferred down to your juniors. You took the same Hippocratic oath which every student was administered.
Each person — from the sweeper, to the attendant who carries samples, to the person who pushes stretchers, to the hard working nurses, to the new interns, and the heart of every hospital, the junior doctors — needs protection. Are we armed with enough personal protective equipment? The people at the top cannot wash their hands off this so easily. When history is written (and none of us know whether we will live to tell that tale) your heroics will not be measured by the number of times your tweet has been retweeted, or the number of television interviews you have given, but by the number of lives you have saved. And the only thing which can help is vision and preparation.
We have a few weeks to go. After that it will be clear that a handful of clinicians cannot manage the hundreds who will need our help. Is there a plan in place? Are the doctors from other departments being trained or primed in possible tasks? Are non-teaching staff and nurses enthusiastic about taking on this battle? Have they been assured of their own security and protection? Leadership in these torrid times is not about how good a clinician you are, but by the promptness of your responses, the practicality of your actions and the compassion you can display. The virus will not distinguish between government or private, rich or poor, young or old. We swim together, or sink together.
We are sitting on a time bomb. Health administrators need to show they are serious. By gaining the confidence of the people who work under them. Else you will go down in history, not just as callous, but also as cowardly.