Wednesday, 15 April 2020


“Before you call yourself a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or a believer of any other theology, learn to be human first.” ― Shannon L. Alder

I recently found myself in the emergency department of one of our major public hospitals in Melbourne at 4:30 a.m. I was accompanying someone who had need of assistance (no, not COVID-19!). The place was deserted at that time and we were seen to immediately after a rapid and efficient triage. The set-up was impressive and the care given was exemplary. Six hours later, the person I was accompanying had been seen by nurses, doctors, radiographers, had been given appropriate medication that relieved her acute, severe pain and was ready to be discharged. She had been given a prescription, and the first lot of suitable medication to last her a couple of weeks, but also a referral to see a specialist and have some more imaging done, all within the next two weeks.

At that point in time I thanked my lucky stars that I am living in a country where in the midst of a pandemic that is causing havoc in most countries around the world, I could still rely on our public health care system to deliver timely, efficient and effective emergency intervention. There was adequate, appropriate diagnostic equipment, care by experienced and courteous medical professionals and also immediate access to medication that relieved excruciating algesic symptoms.

Up till now, in Australia, our intensive care facilities have been able to cope with the increased demand that has been placed on them with the COVID-19 cases. At the time I am writing this, Australia still has a relatively low rate of infection and fewer deaths than other countries of a similar development status. Diagnosed Coronavirus cases here presently are: 6,447, while total nymber of deaths is: 63, with recovered cases: 3,686. The death rate per million population in Australia is 2 per million, compared say to Italy, 348 per million population, or USA, 79 per million population. The response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia was drastic, timely and universal. This proved to be a life-saving intervention.

We still have an effective public health system, despite the increased demands placed on it by our ageing population and the decreased funding it receives. One of the reasons it remains effective is because of the dedication, conscientiousness and professionalism of our health care workers. Paramedics, orderlies, nurses, doctors, diagnosticians, laboratory workers, specialists, surgeons, physical therapists, dieticians, cleaners, kitchen staff, etc, etc, all of these people who work within our public health care system, deserve our appreciation and gratitude for a hard job done well.

Unfortunately, though, we still have a problem in that many health care workers are being subjected to abuse, verbal and physical, by the people they are desperately trying to help. Seeing someone doing their best to save someone’s life and at the same trying trying to defend themselves from abusive behaviour is more than disheartening. One questions the norms of the society we live in, the kind of behaviours that people are raised to believe are “normal”, the types of persons out there that find it “OK” to shout obscenities at paramedics, physically abuse nurses, refuse to co-operate with doctors.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine who is a medical specialist. He said that many of the violent patients that are encountered in a health care setting are on drugs or have psychological or behavioural problems. In their minds, whatever they do is excusable because of their “problem” and later, when they sober up or realise what they have done, they cite their “problem” as an excuse and expect instant and absolute forgiveness. Fortunately, legislation is changing nowadays and that type of excuse is becoming untenable. If you commit a crime and you are high on drugs, you will be punished to the full extent of the law, while “being on drugs” is no longer a valid defence.

We live in a strange world. Times have changed rapidly and people behave in quite disturbing and extremely selfish and antisocial ways. The values of typical, large, post-industrial Western societies have deteriorated, and unchecked capitalism seems to have created a mindset where all is possible, all is allowable all is excusable if one has money. The pursuit of wealth has become the be-all and end-all of existence and our humanity has suffered as a result. Rampant development, widespread exploitation of resources, unthinking consumerism and pullulating globalisation have created massive social, economic, moral and ethical problems.

Perhaps we did need a wake-up call of the order of a pandemic. Perhaps COVID was a necessary evil that we desperately needed in order to stop, rethink our existence, and if we survive through it, change our lives for the better. Perhaps we needed this worldwide emergency to highlight everything that is wrong with our modern civilisation. Perhaps we needed to be afraid, very afraid, of our individual future, and contemplate our own untimely and rapid death in order to consider the survival of our species, the good of our society, the repercussions of our actions on others – people, animals, plants, society, ecosystems, the planet…


  1. As a retired nurse, I appreciate your post. Yes, I was verbally and physically assaulted while working and, no, it's not acceptable.
    As an American, I must say that I wish our government had responded more effectively to COVID-19. Bluster and blunder seems to be the watchword for our president. I am glad to hear that Australia has had more effective leadership.
    As a human being, I see the potential for some good coming out of this. People may wind up with better health habits which may help to lessen the likelihood of something like this happening again. Perhaps even cold and flu season will be of less consequence next year. But the most positive effect may be a better appreciation of the value of friendship, community, worship, and the enjoyment of the freedoms we once took for granted.
    I ope you remain safe and well.

  2. I think it is despicable that anyone becomes violent and abuses other people. How much more disgusting it is that health care personnel are attacked by the people they are trying to help.
    How lucky we are in Australia compared to other countries around the world. I often complain to younger people that things have deteriorated over the past few decades, but on reflection now, we still far better off than others around the world.
    Thank you for your thoughtful posts.

  3. Thank you for another thoughtful post in these troubled times.

  4. "people behave in quite disturbing and extremely selfish and antisocial ways. The values of typical, large, post-industrial Western societies have deteriorated, and unchecked capitalism seems to have created a mindset where all is possible, all is allowable all is excusable if one has money"
    HALLELUJAH! As you say, perhaps the pandemic will help us redefine what is truly valuable and worthwhile in our lives and society.