Monday 1st June, 2020
Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Assalamo-alaikum and Noa’ia e mau’ri. We are almost at the half-way stage for 2020 yet it feels like 2020 has dragged on much longer than that. The evolution of COVID-19 worldwide shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. Worldwide, we have over 6 million cases and we are closing in on almost 400, 000 deaths. These are the verified cases and mortalities and we know that the true numbers may be significantly higher. International tourism as we knew it has come to a grinding halt. The Economic machinery worldwide has drastically slowed down and a direct consequence of this is closure of many businesses, loss of jobs and an increasing burden on Governments to come up with innovative solutions to help their people. There is uncertainty, which then feeds suspicion and mistrust which can then manifest itself in some unsavory forms. Across the world, it is safe to assume that everyone to some degree is suffering from mental health issues as a direct result of COVID-19. We, as health professionals, especially those on the frontlines, are not immune from mental health issues. We may put on a brave face and bravely soldier on, the truth of the matter is that this crisis steadily chips away at our very core and I believe that it is important for us to acknowledge this. If we are being steadily drained off our emotional energy, a time will come when we may be running on fumes and, for some; they may have already reached this stage. It is important that we all try and assess our mental and emotional health to gauge if it is ok for us to continue with status quo or is it time to take a break, step back and recalibrate? We, as colleagues, need to look out for each other; we are all running a very long and exhaustive marathon and we need to adopt a relay strategy whereby those that need to take a break do so whilst the others keep carrying the baton forwards. Let us develop the ability to be kind and compassionate to ourselves and be collegial and supportive to our colleagues so that we may continue to do battle during this war.
Another important issue I wish to highlight is that of systematic racism. Humanity has come a way in accepting the fact that all men and women irrespective of any label that society gives them are equal. The riots and protests that are currently at fever pitch in Minneapolis and other cities across many states in America over the death of George Floyd, an African American man, whist being detained by a white police officer reflect the ongoing fight against systematic racism. The 13th amendment to the US constitution relating to the abolition of slavery was passed on January 31, 1865. The 14th Amendment (1868) guaranteed African Americans citizenship rights and promised that the federal government would enforce “equal protection of the laws.” The 15th Amendment (1870) stated that no one could be denied the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” Despite all the efforts by well-intentioned individuals, the sad statistic that continues to haunt African-Americans is that 1 in 1000 black men have a lifetime risk of being killed at the hands of the Police. Systematic racism is not unique to the USA. Sadly, we as human beings try and somehow “prove” our superiority over our fellow human beings based on race, gender, religious beliefs, tribes, etc. The concept of “us” and “them” is a dangerous one and in our pursuit for a utopian society, we must view ourselves as one; and embrace our diversity. When our fundamentals are entrenched in equality for all, then we can truly progress and prosper.
Another sad casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic is our 2020 Annual Scientific conference which was scheduled for September at the Shangri-La Fijian resort. The executive committee was waiting to see how were placed at the end of May to make the call and it has been unanimously decided that due to the inherent risks and the inability for us to get international participation due to travel restrictions, we will postpone the conference to next year. We will inform of the revised dates in due course. We do acknowledge that this may present you with some challenges in getting your 25 CPD points for 2020. We do encourage you to attend webinars, do CME activities in your local setting and have it documented and FMA will advocate on your behalf. Also, our new website is being developed and will have a link to the World Continuing Education Alliance (WCEA) website which we subscribe to that will enable you to do as many CME activities as you wish in a diverse variety of fields. We wish you a blessed June.
Vinaka vakalevu, Khuda Hafiz, Daniyabaad and Fa’eksia
Dr Basharat Munshi
Fiji Medical Association