Photo credit: Sandya Salgado
I recently had a conversation with a friend, in which she said that while she and her family are ok for food supplies during current travel restrictions, she feels anxious about those who are more vulnerable, and less prepared: the daily wage workers who cannot go to work, the people who spend every rupee of their salary on rent and rates and cannot save money, or cannot afford to buy in bulk to stock up their store cupboards.
My friend said:
‘I can’t focus on anything else when people are suffering. I’m too much of an empath and it affects me through and through.’
She shared a video on WhatsApp which was taken in a large local hospital, which showed Covid patients sleeping on mats on the ground, and the verandah of the hospital building, due to lack of beds.
I asked her how sharing videos like this could help matters. Wasn’t she merely depressing and upsetting people, because they couldn’t do anything to help? Her reply?
‘FYI by sharing like this I was able to galvanize people all over to donate and help building houses and also donate household effects and clothes etc for families badly affected by floods a few years ago. People in England and in Australia and several here gave generously when they saw the horrors those poor people were experiencing. I will make things happen. I will not hide my head in the sand and pretend everything is fine outside my high walls where I have everything. Someone has to draw attention to what these poor helpless people are suffering !!!!’
It’s not an easy thing to ask people during a crisis like this pandemic to be generous, and empathic, and to think and act beyond their own survival and that of their own immediate family, to the needs of the wider community.
I think we need to think like the virus behaves, in order to combat it. We need to think of impacting exponential numbers. We know that this illness spreads like wildfire through community transmission. So to meet this challenge we need to think in terms of community support. Especially during national lockdown and periods of enforced travel restrictions.
It makes absolute sense in this situation to support the people closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our local community and our local business owners. But above all, as this is a public health crisis, we should see how we can all support our local hospitals and the medical personnel and administrative staff who work in these facilities.
They need not only our respect, and our thoughts and prayers. The facilities they work in, need donations: not only financial donations, but donations of medical equipment, and beds, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Hospitals throughout the country are calling for donations to purchase ICU Beds, Oxygen Concentrators both large and small, High Flow Oxygen Therapies, Oxygen Cylinders, Pulse Oximeters, and K95 masks and PPE for medical and nursing staff. Rotary Groups are raising money from their members through crowdfunding to provide the expensive equipment required to specified hospitals.
They don’t say so, but it’s clear that the medical personnel who are on duty are working double shifts, away from their families and homes, and they could do with some supplies of food, snacks, coffee and Milo, or Sustagen, or Nestomalt, and some blankets and sheets and pillows and towels for the times when they can get a couple of hours’ sleep between shifts.
It makes sense for us to support the communities in which we live. By supporting and stocking up the medical supplies in our local hospitals, we increase our own chances of survival if we have to enter these health facilities. By rounding off every payment we make to a local business which is maximizing our safety through arranging contactless delivery to our home, to the nearest 500 or 1000 LKR, we can directly support their drivers and their staff.
By thanking the staff at our local Food City and Keells, and small convenience stores, who wear masks and shields and provide us with exemplary service, adding up and bagging our purchased items, we encourage them as they support us, through personally recognizing their dedication. By giving a bit extra to everyone, we can help everyone stock up as much as possible on their essential needs.
If every person who was capable of giving 2-5,000 LKR to their own local hospital would do so, the shortfall would be rapidly reduced. There are enough citizens who could donate in such a way that the support could be continuous until it is no longer required.
This would supplement the current capabilities of the public health care system, in a targeted and effective way. All it would need to be effective would be for a designated person in each hospital to handle and account for incoming goods and monies, so that the donations would directly benefit those they are intended for.
This targeted support, if implemented now would operate in an incremental way, to match the concurrent increase in vaccination implementation, and the increasing public awareness of the need for self care and personal and household hygiene and cleanliness, to reduce the severity of symptoms and support high levels of immunity in every individual.
Another friend of mine, commenting on the scenario we currently face, said: ‘I think countries which claim to be socialist often create a feeling in the citizens that the state is responsible, not you. In this pandemic, those with the contacts and connections to request special treatment will inevitably try to jump the queue, leaving the vulnerable destitute of support. Under those circumstances, it would be best for all in a position to do so to show charity to those known to you, who are directly connected to you or your own extended family. By all means cast that net wide, but be clear who is giving what to whom.’
This pandemic has shown all of us what our personal priorities are: who cares, and who does not. It’s showing us what is under the surface of everything, from the efficiency and equitability of our public systems, to the faces of our friends.