It’s been two years of Covid, and we all crossed the threshold of exhaustion a long time ago. We’ve been longing so badly for the moment when we can go back to normal that we almost believed it was all over when we got our second shot. After two years of having to fend for ourselves, with government after government completely botching the response to the crisis, by the time Omicron came about very few of us had it in us to go back to the original craze of shutdowns. But what does it mean to assume we can move on?
For those of us working in healthcare, it means an increase in hospitalizations not seen since the previous winter, a strain on an already understaffed healthcare system, and a renewed anxiety over resources, from personal protective equipment, to respiratory equipment, to beds.
To be more precise, for nurses it means stressing about whether our patients will be stable enough to make it through the day, or if they will need to go to the Intensive Care Unit – if there are even beds available there. For respiratory therapists, it means running a constant inventory of the equipment that we are running out of. For telemetry monitors, it means staring frantically at constantly beeping monitors showing multiple patients’ oxygen going down, being afraid to look away even for a second, since Covid patients can crash so quickly. For certified nursing assistants, it means risking being exposed while caring for disoriented Covid-positive patients for eight or more hours at a time.
For every healthcare worker, it means not being able to turn away from this reality. It means that we cannot move on. We cannot ignore the crisis that we are facing. We need governments and hospital administrators to stop acting like this is over and to stop putting the burden of the response on our shoulders. We need more staff, and we need more equipment of all kinds. But at the same time, we also need to recognize that under a capitalist healthcare system this will be impossible, so we need to fight every day for a better system not driven by greed and the drive for profit.