C19: Lying kills

Your mother is lying motionless in a hospital bed. Despite being hooked up to a ventilator, despite skilful clinical care, despite constant monitoring, she is suffocating to death. But before she dies, her pain will become unbearable. Her liver, kidneys, brain and finally her heart will fail. But you won’t know any of this because she will die alone.

She is 38 years old. As far as her family are aware, she has no underlying health conditions.

This is the reality of Coronavirus. It does not discriminate; it does not feel or care. It is neither good nor evil, it is not bound to any simplistic moral concept. It takes no heed of implications or complications: death by C-19 defies searching for answers – “why her”, there are no mitigating reasons. It ignores the rallying cry – “this is war!” It is deaf to the beating of political drums – “we are proud [only 60,000 have died].”

Neither ritual hand-clapping nor heartfelt commiserations ease the sorrow endured by this family or the hundreds of thousands of others similarly affected. And weasel words will not deflect the growing conviction that the Government of the United Kingdom has failed its people. Catastrophically.

When danger threatens, citizens turn to the state for protection and guidance in the same way villagers in bygone ages sought sanctuary behind the laird’s castle walls. This is the least we should expect of a State in return for our allegiance. We expect our leaders to be purposeful in the face of adversity, deferential to expert opinion, sure footed in their planning, methodical in preparations, meticulous and brave in calculating anticipated damage and purposeful in implementation. We look to them to be inspirational in our darkest hours and crucially, we also expect them to be honest and forthright in their communications with us.

From the outbreak of this crisis, the British Government has prioritised political ideology above the health and wellbeing of the masses. As a result, the list of their failures parades like a living example of how not to govern or manage anything, let alone a sovereign country.

Planning has been slapdash or non-existent.

In 2016 Exercise Cygnus concluded that Britain was “critically unprepared” for managing a pandemic and made a number of recommendations. The government kept the report secret, it has never been officially published. However, when it was finally leaked to the press, several Ministers asserted (lied) that all the important proposals had been acted upon.

This was not the first lie, neither will it be the last. In fact, ignoring their dismal track record since 2010, government ministers have been caught out lying on numerous occasions throughout the last four or five months. They have been caught out by scientists, whose advice has often been twisted or ignored; by Sir Ian Diamond, Director of Office for National Statistics and most importantly by us when Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, informed the nation in March that the threat from Coronavirus was “low risk.” We knew, then, that he was lying because the World Health Organisation had already convened to discuss declaring the Coronavirus outbreak a pandemic while news reports from China, Malaysia, Japan and elsewhere revealed hundreds, if not thousands of confirmed cases.

We are told the NHS has not been overwhelmed, which is untrue by almost every measure. It is impossible to ignore the fact that our health service was failing before the Coronavirus outbreak through lack of political will and ruinous underfunding.

It should come as no surprise that the negligent leadership prevalent before the outbreak should continue and further expose their incompetence. I know I am highlighting the obvious when I say that generally speaking, there are no plans in place for emergency admissions, which is one of the principal functions of the health service, so patients are turned away, often at the door (unless you show symptoms of C19). There are no plans for continuing care for people with long term conditions. Planned, life preserving surgeries have been cancelled regardless of urgency. It is fair to say that social distancing has nothing to do with the reason, after all operating Theatres are sterile environments. Some hospitals have been closed completely due to lack of staff, lack of equipment, lack of funding, lack of PPE and above all, lack of planning.

The PPE fiasco which has still not been resolved. Even now, three months into the pandemic, there are front line and auxiliary on-site staff without hand sanitiser, masks or any other form of personal protection equipment. Neither is testing routinely conducted.

Testing: In early March, The World Health Organisation along with a phalanx of leading experts, implored countries to “Test. Test. Test.”  The British Government’s response was to allow major international sporting events to go ahead, right up to March 15th. Testing is still not a priority even though it has proven to be an indispensable weapon against the disease in other countries like New Zealand (where there have not been 80,000 excess deaths).

Track and Trace: Instead of consulting local government services, which already have the necessary expertise in addition to significant knowledge of their locality, the government chose to employ a private company, Serco. As far back as 2017, Serco was regarded by its own accounting advisers as a “high-risk client, [with a] history of problems, failures, fatal errors and overcharging.” A great endorsement! Bearing in mind that the effectiveness of this “world beating” enterprise has serious consequences for determining who lives and who may die. As it is, anecdotal evidence points to a chaotic recruitment process, lack of training, a lack of medical knowledge amongst managers/team leaders and staff sitting at home watching Netflix because systems do not work. Even so, the system relies upon the public to self-report and self-isolate. In effect the system is simply a data collection mechanism which was already in place, though grossly underfunded, through the NHS.

I am disinclined to go on because, frankly, I am beaten by the sheer magnitude of incompetence. And, I have not yet touched upon education, wellbeing, the economy, work, policing, or infrastructure. These must wait for another day.

I shall leave you with this thought from colleagues at Vice: A pandemic is no more a “natural disaster” than a famine. Both are political events. The outbreak of zoonotic diseases might be blamed on global agribusiness, but the failure of pandemic preparation to control the outbreak is a government failure.

Sources: ONS, Vice, World Economic Forum, NHS England, The Guardian, Conservatives.com, BBC Reality Check, FullFact.org

© Rod McRiven 2017

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