Will the epidemic heal the healthcare system?

dr hab. n. med. Maciej Krawczyk

Due to the epidemic, TV cameras and microphones of radio stations have been directed towards healthcare workers for the past three months. Health, treatment and medical professionals have become the buzzwords of this period, receiving constant media attention. Even politicians and political experts appearing in current affairs programmes seem to have gently stepped aside to make room for healthcare professionals. Does this mean that public awareness regarding the role of medical professions in Poland has improved?

From a rational point of view, the answer to this question should be affirmative. The reality, however, is different. Media report about another incidents of harassing and stigmatizing healthcare workers by the so called “ordinary” citizens. The reason behind such attacks can be as simple as the sole fact of working in a healthcare facility. On the other hand, political representatives of all parties, from left to right-wing, constantly repeat that “the society appreciates the efforts of medics”, “we are all grateful for your sacrifice” and similar platitudes. Forgive me my sarcastic remarks, but I believe that these people only wish to enter the current mainstream trends, while the meaningless slogans they serve us only illustrate how little respect we actually receive as medics. The level of disrespect by government officials for healthcare professionals has been incredibly high for the past several years, which has obviously transformed into negative social attitudes. Since we have now become so important in the recent months and people are so eager to talk about our work, it seems like the right time to introduce some changes. The epidemic should be a turning point in thinking about healthcare in Poland.

Political issues have always been a barrier in this discussion. Now, facing a disease which affects all nations and communities around the world, such matters should be of the least priority. A similar opportunity is not likely to repeat itself any time soon. All government institutions have their representatives from the medical field who possess valuable experience and knowledge to adequately handle problems of the Polish healthcare system. These medical experts are also able to influence the key decision makers in our country, that is, the President, Prime Minister and Members of the Polish Parliament.

I hope that they will make an attempt to introduce some real improvements to our healthcare system. All of us who work in this system, as well as the patients – among whom are also many medical professionals – have truly had enough of the empty words. And if you, politicians, dare to think that someone is going to do this work for you, I am sorry to tell you that you are sorely mistaken. There will not be a better occasion. Go down in history as the ones who healed the Polish healthcare system, do it before the next wave of healthcare employees’ emigration hits our country and another few years will add up to the average age of the ones who stayed, bringing them closer to retirement. Ensure dignified working conditions and fair wages for those who take care of your health and lives. After all, is there anything more valuable to you? The decisions must be made here and now! Since we have no time for kind requests anymore, I urge you – as a medical professional and as a patient – to not fear to start a dialogue with the ones who work in the healthcare. Forgive me my frankness but without us, medics, you have literally no chance to treat anyone for any possible condition. The patient should stand at the center of your actions. Should the world forget, let me just remind that healthcare is not only about bureaucracy and administration officials – its most important mission is to conduct a real and often painful (also in the emotional context) treatment process.

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