Saturday 1st February, 2020
Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Assalamo-alaikum and Noa’ia e mau’ri. Year 2020 is upon us. I am personally a big fan of the “new”. The New Year brings a fresh slate. An opportunity for us to reflect on the year that has been, to evaluate the challenges we have faced on professional, social and personal levels and to devise strategies to do better. Some of us do this subconsciously while others actually ink their thoughts, aspirations and improvement programs. Whilst we are riding this wave of semi-nostalgia, let us firmly ground ourselves by endeavoring to uphold our noble profession. Let us strive to be the best versions of ourselves and let your goodness radiate to all that come into contact with you. Let us strive to be holistically better in 2020 and beyond.
The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 has been challenging on a local, regional and international front. Locally, we have had 2 cyclones back to back affecting various parts of nation. We are lucky that the paths of these two cyclones and their respective intensities were favorable to us and we dodged a couple of bullets. I would like to commend the FEMAT team for their rapid response following cyclone Sarai. The team deployed to Kadavu and was able to do a lot of good. I would also like to thank our Public Health machinery inclusive of Doctors, Nurses and Allied Health staff in containing the measles outbreak. This has now officially been declared over. However, a new threat looms large in the form of the novel coronavirus.
It is very important that we as the guardians of the medical profession stand united in the messages we convey regarding this virus. It is sad to see strong opinions (not necessarily correct) being voiced in social media circles which is directly counter-intuitive to and undermining the MOH directive. Yes, we are all entitled to our own opinions but if you are employed by the MOH then you need to be supportive of all the efforts that are ongoing to try and pacify a panicked public. At the higher echelons, a cool, calm head that sieves through good evidence prior to any decision making is vital. We MUST differentiate ourselves from mass public opinion and search for scientific evidence before embarking on a crusade. This situation is something that media outlets feed off. In fact it is akin to a feeding frenzy as the media plays with people’s emotions. The job of the media is to sell news, sensationalize events, provide outrageous conspiracy theories and make up "facts" to try and sell their news. We must not buy into this mass hysteria and feed this misinformation because we have a bigger responsibility as custodians of good sensible decision making. We have been trained ask questions first before we shoot and we have the ability to sieve out accurate data, interventions that work from radical emotive strategies. It is important to go back to the facts, to the lessons learnt from previous outbreaks in order to device sound effective strategies to combat this coronavirus.
In brief this virus is very highly contagious, more than the SARS outbreak in 2003. However the mortality from it is less than that from SARS. The overwhelming majority of the cases and all of the deaths are in China. To date there are now over12,000 confirmed cases and over 250 confirmed deaths. The number of cases in individual countries outside of China is very small. The incubation period for the virus is 14 days and it may be transmitted before symptoms appear. This makes it challenging to contain. It is not as contagious as measles however; currently there is no vaccine for it. Efforts are underway in trying to get one. Locally, there has been a taskforce set up consisting of various stakeholders in the medical fraternity that is currently devising strategies to combat the novel coronavirus. The first meeting was held on 30/01/2020, and there will be further meetings happening as this unfolds. This is in addition to the groundwork that has been done by MOH already. An MOH advisory was sent out on 20/01/2020 which included a case definition and pertinent recommendations should healthcare workers encounter suspected cases of coronavirus at their facility. I would urge you all to read these guidelines which have been adopted from WHO guidelines and start adopting these where you work. Most of the recommendations are based on sound infection control principles of a high index of suspicion, strict usage of personal protective equipment, adhering to good infection control principals, expedient investigation and treatment as indicated together with rapid reporting and isolation. The taskforce committee will come up with their recommendations as well in due course. The strategies will be all encompassing including border control, quarantine plus dealing with cases that may show up to individual health facilities. Let us all be proactive in dealing with this and let us be the ones with cool heads and be the calming effect on our beloved public.
Another challenge that many of you may be facing is getting your registrations for 2020. There has been a change in the registrar for FMDC. The new registrar has come from a background in Ministry of Economy. The registrar also has a reduced number of staff working for her. The FMDC has had a lot of organizational and personnel challenges prior to the new registrar joining. This has been compounded with the lack of familiarity about the processes of FMDC, and the net result is that there are delays in getting registrations. FMA has offered a helping hand and if some of you are extremely frustrated please send in your registration documents via FMA. Our secretariat will do the utmost to help in expediting the process. This learning experience will be of value to streamline processes for 2021.
Good things are coming up in the horizon. The Suva Mini-conference is scheduled for the 18th of April, 2020 and in keeping true to our form, we will revamp the format and content so that it is enjoyable, educational and entertaining. This format will then be extrapolated to the West Mini-conference on the 16th of May, 2020 and the North Mini-conference on the 20th of June, 2020. Not only will these mini-conferences provide you with an opportunity to enrich yourselves but you also get invaluable CME points. You are also getting serial emails regarding registration for the annual conference from the 4th to the 7th of September, 2020 from our secretariat. I urge you all to register early and to book your accommodations early to secure your spot and avoid the disappointment of missing out.
I wish you all a blessed and prosperous 2020 and know that FMA has your back.
Vinaka vakalevu, Khuda Hafiz, Daniyabaad and Fa’eksia.
Dr Basharat Munshi
Fiji Medical Association