Right in the centre - Please listen more


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

For a number of reasons, I held off writing this column until Wednesday morning, which is really pushing the patience of our staff. The paper gets sent to print on Wednesday and we can’t be late. Printing presses are like trains, they are supposed to run on schedule.

I was hoping that we would have heard some better C-19 restrictions news two weeks ago and certainly by yesterday (Tuesday). The little that came out yesterday was, well, little. By the time you read this, we may know if barbers, hair dressers and some other small businesses can open up.

For the most part, the government has done a good job of handling C-19, albeit some of the actions have been missing and some have been misguided. I guess that’s part of the learning curve.

If we are faced with another pandemic, and we likely will be, we should learn from this recent experience and past experiences. Certainly, we should be willing to move mountains to take better care of care home residents. At some point, the care home residents who died should likely have been hospitalized. I would like to know how many care home residents died in their rooms without the benefit of hospital care.

That, of course, raises the question of hospital and intensive care capacity (ICU). Perhaps we need to be able to be prepared to quickly ramp up ICU and isolation capacity. There is a lesson to be learned from the tuberculosis pandemic, which went on for decades. Sanitariums were set up and they were, for their day, a case study in isolation and personal care. The sanitariums were all shuttered and so was the mental hospital in Brandon. Probably other facilities could have been kept in emergency reserve. Perhaps we should be carefully mothballing facilities so we can have ICU and isolation facilities.

Several hospitals set up whole floors for C-19, such as St. Boniface  and Brandon. I know from personal experience, because I spent four days in each hospital and there were C-19 floors in both places. Would it not be a good idea to have a dedicated pandemic facility in place? It is certainly feasible, but whether it’s affordable is another question. It’s worth a look, as the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been thrown at this pandemic has shown there’s no shortage of money if the need is great enough. It would seem that an isolation ICU would make sense.

As far as business closures are concerned, the often quoted irony of being able to buy pot but not get a hair cut or being able to have 250 people in Costco or Walmart but nobody in the dress shop has been a logistical and political disaster. The whole question of essential retail and non-essential retail has been a nightmare to defend and enforce. Quite simply, it shouldn’t have happened. And as to Walmart and Costco, had they been shut down, they would have hired the best lawyers and taken the government to court. The local barber can’t afford to do that.

People, and rightly so, compare the C-19 lockdowns, the stay-at-home rules and gathering limits to the WWII bombing of London. Our sacrifice is small compared to that situation.

I say, wear a mask when you go into a public place, wash your hands (Grandma told you that), use hand sanitizer, get lots of rest. That’s all good stuff. I think a lot of the spike in C-19 through November and December in Manitoba came from people not wearing masks when they went into groups of people.

We will be sorting through this process for years. One problem is the collateral damage will be very hard to measure. I am convinced that two people I know from a care home died of confusion and loneliness when their family or close friends couldn’t come and see them any more. Also remember that we have about 132 care homes in Manitoba and 80 or more did not get C-19. Some got it and recovery was full.

I sympathize with the government, but I do know this for sure. Governments, and Manitoba is really bad for this, don’t listen to their MLAs. That’s just plain wrong. The MLAs take all the crap, but it’s pretty hard to shoulder that responsibility when the premier and the officials aren’t listening. Quite frankly, I am not sure they are listening all that much to local care home staff either.

The message is simple, listen more.