Medical professionals have a desire to leave everything and part ways.
The former chief state sanitary physician of Minsk city and Minsk district Ivan Voitovich expressed the opinion in an interview to Charter97.org that the sharp increase in the number of omicron diseases showed that Belarus had a crisis in the sphere of disease prevention:
- Ordinary citizens, unfortunately, have a widespread distrust of the information they receive from official sources. This distrust is related to the fact that personal experience, observations differ from the picture which is officially published.
Last week, against the backdrop of growing lines in polyclinics, separate statements of officials about the rapid spread of omicron, as well as the rise of COVID-19 due to omicron in the structure of morbidity in Russia, the Ministry of Health of Belarus published data on the unchanged level of morbidity.
I admit I am very concerned about the developments. The things I observe are a crisis in the management of disease prevention.
Some of my former colleagues share this opinion. I am concerned about the fact that prevention in Belarus has been devalued in terms of the choice of priorities in health care. I see that prevention is, to put it mildly, in the background. The balance has now shifted to treating the disease rather than preventing it. It plays on repeat, and preventive measures are even being ignored.
The words "don't hurt people over nothing," you remember the result. The warnings about the mask regime were removed, and the police stopped controlling the self-isolation of patients and contacts. As a result, people's responsible behavior was compromised and, consequently, the threats of the free spread of infection emerged.
- How much damage does the failure to isolate new arrivals cause?
- Self-isolation is a reasonable public measure. It is subject to supervision. Now we see the government has given up control in the area of preventive measures for coronavirus infection.
Anyone, even non-health professionals, would agree that it is better to prevent a disease than to treat it. It is better to prevent a problem than to incur losses later, to spend the effort to solve it. This principle applies to all spheres of life. The state must deal with prevention.
This is not to indicate that it is less important for health care to treat. No, I'm saying that prevention is equally important; it's one of the fundamentals of health care.
Of course, it's not just the responsibility of public health agencies and institutions.
The Ministry of Health, especially the Sanitary and Epidemiological Service, is designed to develop preventive measures which are obligatory for all participants of state administration, in terms of respect for human freedoms and rights, binding on the citizens of the country and organizations.
- What should Belarusians do then?
- Thank you for your question. Every Belarusian should understand how one can protect oneself and one' relatives.
One can distinguish two levels of disease prevention: individual and public. The individual level implies actions that people can take not to get sick.
It is a healthy lifestyle: daily routine, exercise, proper diet, balanced and rich in vitamins, a glass of water in the morning on an empty stomach, giving up bad habits, compliance with certain rules will help to strengthen the immune system. You should often wash your hands and wear a mask in public places. It is also up to each person to decide whether to vaccinate or not.
Vaccination is an important element of prevention. It is about disease management at the public level. A person has the right to agree or not agree to vaccination. But health care professionals must convince people that it is important to vaccinate. It will help them prevent severe complications and eliminate the disease.
At the societal level, the state manages the epidemic process. It can reduce its intensity.
What can the government do?
To introduce a mandatory rule of wearing masks in public transport and other public places and to ensure control of compliance with this measure.
The state can introduce social distancing. For example, omicron has entered a certain social and age group - the incidence of coronavirus infection affects children. Consequently, it was necessary to stop the educational process in schools and switch to distance learning. This measure would help greatly reduce the spread of the infection.
But the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health failed to take these measures, even though they knew it could have had an effect.
- So why haven't they done it yet?
- They may not have the necessary funds to provide distance education. Either it's an unwillingness to admit the problem or it's the "highest order" of "treat and mind your own business"... More likely, all of the above.
Surely there is a technical problem. But it is all solvable. The task is not as difficult as it may seem. Almost every home has a PC. One can find the means. It is worth the effort, the persuasion, the development of the corresponding program. Especially since the effect will affect the health of not only the children but their parents and grandparents as well.
I know the Ministry of Education had ideas to switch to distance learning. They were half a step away from introducing distance learning. But they stopped for some reason. And why? One can only guess.
- Maybe the reason is Lukashenka, who today suggests that every Belarusian has an omicron?
- Yes, we have witnessed many dangerous statements, including how to prevent and treat coronavirus infection. That's why I talk about the crisis of prevention.
One should not expect a layman to make good suggestions about virology, oncology, etc. Only a prudent leader relies on the conclusions and measures brought to him by specialists. To do otherwise is criminal since, in the case of protecting people from disease, it is a matter of life and death. Thus, an incompetent manager in virology must implement preventive measures.
The question arises: is it the health care system that planted crazy statements in the mouth of its manager? What does it say about the competence of the entire health care system? Or is health care ignored?
How does it come about that our country requires health care managers and specialists to fail to implement scientifically justified, internationally approved, effective preventive measures?
If so, I would say in this case: colleagues, let's part ways. One does not need you if you have decided to bury and subordinate your expertise, your knowledge, and global experience to some opinion that is not competent and does not benefit people. Then it is better to part ways. Why should you work in the sanitary and epidemiological service if your knowledge, experience, your precious time are wasted on agreeing that masks are not required, isolation regime is not subject to control, vaccination is not necessary? If it's all like that, then there you go. There is no sanitary service. The healthcare system doesn't have prevention.
The paradigm has changed. It means it is better to get sick and treat than to prevent the disease. This is outrageous.
I do hope to reach out to my colleagues for them to discover the core inside, and to be determined and persistent, to rely on their knowledge and experience, despite the instinct for self-preservation in office, from all positions, whether in the district executive committee or higher offices, to justify and manage to insist on something that would help the Belarusians now:
distance learning for schoolchildren;
a mandatory mask regime in public places;
a strictly controlled self-isolation regime for people diagnosed with coronavirus infection;
vaccination using, among others, Western, affordable, free vaccines.
All these are indisputable and lively measures that can improve the current epidemic situation. It will be a true manifestation of concern for people's lives and health.