the-covid-opportunity

The COVID Opportunity By : Pariksith Singh, MD

May 22, 2020

What did we learn from this piece of COVID? The biggest economy in the world, the most powerful country is brought to its knees by a virus. Found unprepared and wanting, its hospitals overcrowded, morgues spilling over and doctors and nurses strapping for protective personal equipment (PPE) as if this were a third world country.

 

In one hospital of our county, each doctor was given one N95 mask per week to be used no matter how many patients they saw in the intensive care unit, no matter how many patients had COVID. Some were using shower caps as PPE.

 

How is it that after gaming possible biologic warfare for decades, that after living through anthrax and SARS and Ebola scares, we are found woefully unprepared. All kinds of scenarios have been thrown around. And yet, in the end, there was no foresight, no planning.

 

A well-known ruthless competitor in world affairs could hide a rampant epidemic and we would have no idea it was brewing in our backyard. Our CDC and Departments of Health and FDA could not get even a diagnostic test ready for weeks while the world already was using one.

 

We had no supplies of possible medicines. We are dependent on the same ruthless competitor for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients. And it was only when our friend India stepped in with a supply of hydroxychloroquine that our leadership heaved a sigh of relief.

 

Can this happen again? I am afraid the answer is yes.

 

Unless we learn from this. The smartest strategists at the top are unable to come up with practical responses to possible scenarios. Do they live in bubbles? All these situations have been discussed in public forums openly. Bill Gates and George W Bush have talked about them. And still, how is it that our response is delayed, unfocused, and derelict?

 

We know of various problems that afflict an organization’s strategic planning. I am afraid that the US government is afflicted with the same virus. The best minds are split in silos. There is no coming together of their expertise and experience in coordinated coherent actions.

 

We should be training our scientists and doctors just like the marines or seals are trained for physical warfare. And it is not the first time this has happened or will happen.

 

We were unprepared for the Oil Shock of 1977. We were unprepared for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For the attack on the twin towers in 2001.

 

We are the biggest spender in health care in the world. Yet, our mortality due to COVID is the highest compared to any other nation. We have the highest number of cases and are projected to have somewhere between 100 to 200 thousand deaths from coronavirus. India seems to have fared better with far fewer resources, far bigger crowds, and poorer living conditions.

 

And perhaps, if there is a silver lining, it is that we can learn from this. A crisis is too good an opportunity to waste, as Churchill pointed out.

 

We need to face this squarely. Look at the enormous wastage in our system. Our most ineffective medical care. Our health economy is a false economy, a flab on something genuine buried deep inside. That might still be alive, have a heart that is throbbing.

 

If our hospitals can be half-empty in most of the country, emergency room visits can be down and elective procedures reduced to a minimum, and yet, the urgent and chronic health care issues are mostly addressed, there is something inherently specious about our health care.

 

Our costs are exaggerated and can easily be reduced once the perverse incentives are removed. The enormous burden of supporting Big Pharma and Big Vaccine along with Big Sugar and Big Dairy can only be sustained so long until the system creaks.

 

COVID is not a real crisis. The real crisis is our response to it. It is our system that is diseased beforehand.

 

COVID is only a symptom. The underlying disease is avarice, selfishness, ignorance, and arrogance.

 

With so much money, we should be able to design a far more supple, agile, focused, and optimized health system that truly promotes wellness.

 

One that is not beholden to pharmaceutical industries and lobbyists and interest groups.

 

That enhances true science.

 

If we can sustain this shock, that is our inadequacy. If we can realize our foolishness, then perhaps, even this tremendous loss can be turned to some use.

 

Then perhaps we can be wiser.

 

Then perhaps we can evolve a medical care paradigm that is not focused on profits.

 

We should be able to get far better results with half the cost.

Reduce our dependence on our competitors.

Take out the darkest motives for what is essentially a sacred calling.

 

Can we do it? Our tendency, once this is over, will be to revert to status quovid. We must resist this.

 

And must ensure that this time we develop a true resistance to our ingrown virus.

 

Let us make it happen. Let reality trump ideology this time. Let us be truly our society’s keepers.

 

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