Appreciating health workers in the COVID fight isn’t ‘nice’: it’s a moral duty
What are our moral duties to frontline COVID-19 health workers? Supplying PPE, training, adequate clinical support and (if they fall ill) enhanced care, certainly. But we also have a duty to recognise, applaud and tangibly thank them for their efforts, the risks they are taking, and in some cases, their sacrifices.
Doctors, nurses, ward assistants, chaplains, cleaning staff, are at risk of being stigmatised for their role in the C-19 fight. We saw this during SARS and Ebola, and we are, distressingly, seeing it now.
But we are also seeing amazing recognition and support. In some countries (like Italy, Spain and the US), they get daily applause from houses and balconies near their home or hospitals.
In Victoria, Australia, the Government has made accommodation available to them free of charge if they need to self-isolate so they can reduce the risk to their families, while in Western Australia, you can buy a meal for tired clinicians online, which is then made available to them by a mobile food truck parked outside their hospital, all delivered under social distancing arrangements.
In Singapore, almost 2,000 people have signed an online petition whose intent is simple: to say thank you to and to appreciate frontline health workers. One respondent posted: "The frontline healthcare staffs are our guardian angels. They are the ones helping to keep us safe and healthy, despite the risks they face. Appreciate and respect them. Thank you for your commitment and dedication!"
In the UK, the NHS has made it easy for people to volunteer and support NHS and its health workforce, and have launched a dedicated mental health helpline for health workers so that they can have 24 hour phone or SMS support.
And on, and on.
It's hard to overstate the importance of this. Every government, community and person should think about how we can go about the simple, moral duty of embracing, rather than stigmatising, the people who are putting themselves at risk in this fight.