The World Day of the Sick will be observed on Tuesday, February 11 and it is fitting that special recognition and appreciation be accorded to the health care professionals who perform crucial roles in the lives of the sick.
In our public health system, it is more common than not to hear criticism of the personnel who interact with patients and their families. This is particularly unfortunate and unjust, despite the occasions when such criticisms are deserved.
There is a perception that our doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and allied health professionals are unfeeling, lacking in courtesy and eager to rush through their shifts without regard for the welfare of the suffering public.
Those families who can afford private medical care may cast pitying glances at the ‘unfortunate’ patients who must depend on the public health care system.
Our doctors and nurses and their colleagues often work long hours, sometimes with very little time to attend to their own personal needs and without the specialist equipment and essential medication which are integral to the efficient and effective delivery of their services.
Patients’ families may have to purchase basic supplies like gauze, when the latter is unavailable, before wounds can be dressed and patients discharged from our hospitals.
Blame cannot be attributed to the personnel attending to the patients, surely. The helplessness of health care professionals in the face of shortages can be met with the hostile and insulting remarks by unsympathetic and irate members of the public.
Those scathing criticisms may add to the emotional and physical burdens which have to be borne by people to whom our very lives are indebted.
Thankfully, such scenarios do not reflect the full picture of a system which saves the public huge sums of money and which provides comprehensive care to our citizens.
The administration of public health care must be onerous and fraught with its own peculiar difficulties. This is especially so when the demand for services can result in shortages of personnel, equipment and bed spaces in the wards.
Outpatient clinics in the hospitals and health centres provide invaluable attention in urban and far-flung rural areas and are integral to the physical and mental well-being of our people.
As ordinary citizens, we too, have a responsibility for our own health. Information abounds in the public sphere about proper dietary and exercise practices and stress- and anxiety-reducing strategies.
Preventable lifestyle diseases should not impose a strain on the public health system but despite dire warnings of the consequences of situations and unwise habits in which we knowingly and foolishly engage, many of us only begin to act when we find ourselves in crisis.
The public should pay serious attention to the posters, pamphlets and easily accessible reader—or viewer-friendly internet sites which may be recommended for our edification. Our lives, or at the very least, the quality of our lives may depend on them.
Today’s gospel (Matt 5:13–16) refers to “the light of the world”. A recognition of the value of our health care professionals will ensure their continued motivation to shine so that through them we see the Light of Christ at work in our world.