Sunday 29th March 2020
Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Assalamo-alaikum and Noa’ia e mau’ri. Brothers and Sisters of the profession, we are at war. The enemy is very small in size, microscopic in fact measuring a mere 120 nanometers in diameter but contrary to its size, it packs a mighty punch that has brought the whole world to its knees. This enemy needs no introduction, it has announced its presence in such spectacular fashion that even children and toddlers know its name; Coronavirus, Novel-Coronavirus or the more apt acronym COVID-19. What started off as a handful of cases in Wuhan, China a few months back has now infected more than 600, 000 people worldwide and it has killed more than 30, 000 people worldwide. This virus does not respect geographical locations, it does not respect country borders, it does not respect continental borders, it does not respect climate differences and it surely does not discriminate between a persons gender, age, ethnicity, religious or political beliefs, their standing in society or, how much money they have. In fact, ironic as it may sound, with all the labels we give ourselves putting ourselves into various groups or categories to celebrate our differences, this virus has stripped everything down to label us a one simple, all inclusive group, Humans. This war is between Humans and the Coronavirus.
The equation is very simple. It is us, Humans versus this 120-nanometer enemy the Coronavirus. If we keep the equation this simple, then guess what will happen? Brothers and Sisters of the Profession, we are the chosen ones that are fighting the enemy on the frontlines. I extend the frontline to include not only Doctors, but Nurses, Laboratory staff, Paramedic staff, transporters, Pharmaceutical staff and everyone else that is immediately involved in overall patient care. In this battle, even within the medical fraternity with its rich history steeped in hierarchy and specialties, sub-specialties and super-specialties, we are all just Doctors. There is no Surgeon, no O&G, no GP, Pediatrician, Anesthetist, Intensivist, ED Physician, no Gastroenterologist; there is just one entity – Doctor. All our collective efforts are needed with a single-minded aim of containment. Through containment, we will concur and win this war.
Alas, we Humans by our very nature are complex individuals. We like labels, we like to be different, we like to think we are better than our fellow human beings because we may be a different shade of brown, we may have a different religious point of view, we may have more money than our fellow Humans or we may have a different political ideology. Guess what, this is exactly what Coronavirus wants and in fact encourages. Let us continue to hold onto our differences. Let us create divisions amongst ourselves so that we are fighting amongst ourselves. For when we are fighting amongst ourselves over petty differences guess who is winning?
Brothers and sisters of the profession, I urge, in fact implore you to keep things simple. Go back to the simplistic reality which is Humans versus Coronavirus. During this war, we need sound leadership. We need to keep the messages simplistic and we need these messages to be consistent. We must give credit where it is due. Globally, regionally and locally, it is the medical fraternity at large that is commandeering Humanity through these trying times. We have been blessed to have been trained in a way to always look for the best evidence before implementing any treatment or preventative measures. Now, more than ever, we must adhere to evidence based principles and let the experts headed by the World Health Organization who rely on expertise in the field of Virology and Infectious Diseases guide our practices and the advice we disseminate to the public. We must whole-heartedly thank these heroes who have been working tirelessly since the dawn of this Pandemic. On the local front we also have Heroes in our midst. We must acknowledge the ongoing sacrifices and leadership that has been shown by the Ministry of Health lead by our Captain Courageous, The Honorable Minister for Health. We are indeed blessed to have Dr Iferemi Waqainabete as our leader in this battle on our local front as he and his team work tirelessly day and night to protect our beloved nation. In fact, there are too many heroes to name but we must acknowledge the Fiji CDC led by Dr Aalisha Sahukhan and Dr. Daniel Faktaufon who have been our guiding beacons. The MOH efforts led by Dr Jemesa Tudravu and Dr James Fong in their overall tactical coordination and getting all the stakeholders together has been tremendous. The Fiji CDC Laboratory staff led by Ms. Shalini Pravin has been doing a tremendous job of testing using the most appropriate and scientifically sound method which is via the RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction). These tests are very complex, require a high level of training and expertise to conduct and get accurate results. This hero has been consistently pulling 12 hours and more shifts to churn out the results. To date our Lab has done more than 200 tests. And, of course all the medical staff in the locked-down greater Lautoka area. Your sacrifice, determination, and leadership through these tough times have been a source of inspiration to your fellow medical colleagues.
The power of Coronavirus cannot be under-estimated. It works in mysterious ways, sneaky and downright devious ways that in cricketing terms will have us “Clean Bowled” when we are at the proverbial stumps. How it does this is through fragmenting us. We may want to blame our humanity for that, for our right to difference of opinion, for our right to call duck a chicken disguised as a duck. Sadly, we in Fiji are not immune to these divisive measures. From the highest echelons which is the Parliament to the underbelly of dark social media, Individuals and groups are constantly trying to derail the hard work and efforts that are being put in by us. Fabrication, deceit, fearmongering and Xenophobia are all tactics that have been employed to score Political points. This is a time for unity, for solidarity for the greater good of the people of Fiji. It is the time for honesty, transparency and following measures, backed up by evidence that have been shown to work. Sadly, some individuals and groups do not see this as so and try and influence the masses into a warped manner of thinking. We, as the medical fraternity must be above these shenanigans. We must utilize our training in assessing the quality of evidence and sieving out the truth from fabrication to evaluate and help save our beloved nation from rates of infection that are currently seen in Europe and America. That scenario is unthinkable, we must not let our case numbers rise and we must do everything in our means to contain the numbers we currently have. So, I urge you all brothers and Sisters of the profession, let us all stay united in this battle. Let us keep the equation as simple as Humans vs Coronavirus for our unity and steadfastness will ultimately lead us to victory.
Vinaka vakalevu, Khuda Hafiz, Daniyabaad and Fa’eksia
Dr Basharat Munshi
Fiji Medical Association