Public health

A gastroenterologist’s open letter on their hopes and fears for COVID-19

Like other doctors, gastroenterologists are going through a difficult period of anxiety and confusion due to the rapidly developing threat of COVID-19 disease and the enormous impact it is having on work and personal lives. Here we reprint an open letter from Dr Patricia Kaazan, Gastroenterology Advanced Trainee, and Dr Carolyn McIvor, Gastroenterology consultant, Head of Unit, Metro South Health, Logan Hospital, University of Adelaide.

Dear Colleagues, Doctors and healthcare workers:

The COVID19 epidemic has taken over our healthcare systems, our thoughts, our relationships and our economy. It has forcefully pressed a “STOP” button on almost everything.

Mankind is going through testing times … the world will never be the same place again.

Despite all the sadness and the grief, it is a season for unity and humanity.

“In the presence of epidemics or other danger, I will not allow fear or concern for personal harm to turn me from my duty” – quoting the original Hippocratic Oath.

Broadcasts and reports from all over the world are heartbreaking.

Most of us doctors are fearful and emotionally shaken. Most of us, particularly our trainees and junior consultants, haven’t worked through pandemics or disaster management before.

I am afraid many of us will continue to bear heavy consequences for a long time, many of us might lose loved ones.

Physicians feel like they are going, unprepared to a war. They are preparing wills and living separate from their families.

Doctors’ and healthcare workers’ mental health is crucial in the short and long term and I think we should promptly address this issue.

We all need to support each other and accept each other. It is a time for us all to go beyond dissimilarities, competition and politics and represent the nobility of our profession.

We are allowed to fear the uncertain but it is important to remember that we are all in this together.

I hope we come out of this crisis as a better race, reinforcing our societal values and embracing humility, integrity and solidarity.

I hope we see a movement towards “compassionate leadership” at all levels, especially in the healthcare system.

I hope we see the light, or many lights at the end of this tunnel soon.

I hope we can hug and kiss our beloved ones and socialise with the world soon, for now we will all be encouraging a better social connection despite physical distancing.

At the end, at times of crisis and confusion, humans are at their best.

No one should struggle alone.

In this rapidly changing COVID19 world where borders are closed, barriers are erected and uncertainty is almost the only certain thing, we all share our humanity and our vulnerability.

Please let us all go “viral” on kindness.

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