COVID-19 diaries with Len D'Cruz: No More Heroes... Please

Next installment of COVID-19 diaries is with the head of BDA Indemnity and Owner of Woodford Green Dental Care Len D'Cruz...

Image courtesy of Sara Pagalia

Why are we calling keyworkers heroes? Why are we clapping at 8 pm every Thursday for these people?

The language and rhetoric in common usage now to describe the impact and response to Coronavirus is increasingly unhelpful and possibly dangerous.

The media are full of headlines referring to  the “battle“ against Coronavirus, the “war” on it, “frontline staff”, the trending #NHSHeroes and unusually ,”The secret weapon in the fight against coronavirus :women”[1]

Whilst this might be uplifting and a positive outward sign of communal appreciation, the language is not helpful when we contemplate the reality of what healthcare workers in particular are doing.

Soldiers sign up to the “front line“  in the expectation of putting themselves in harm’s way and risking life and limb as part of the job. They know the risks and face them single mindedly, directed by politicians whether they believe in the justice of the war they are fighting or not. Healthcare workers signed up to save lives, not risk their own.

The language of war emboldens spirits, it ostensibly binds people together in a common cause in the belief that we are all in this together (we are definitely not but that is another matter altogether). The elevation of healthcare workers to hero status might tempt politicians to hide behind their own woeful failings in preparation or strategic timely leadership as this drama unfolds.

But should these healthcare workers, dentists and nurses amongst them, be expected to go over the top and face an aerosol of virus particles without adequate protection as generals in their glass boxes shout helpfully that supplies are on the way....possibly from Turkey or China… so just keep going.

The characterisation of these health care professionals as “heroes“ heaps moral, emotional and psychological pressure on them to act to heroically, taking risks they might otherwise not take, working  longer hours than it is safe to do and doing their jobs selflessly without the right equipment and PPE.

Nursing staff fashioning gowns from bin-liners,as though this was a third world country in the middle of a civil war, is in unconscionable sight for a country that prides itself as having one of the best and most universally available health service in the world - free (in most cases) at the point of delivery.

There is a sense of collective guilt that others, who are not facing the perils of the pandemic firsthand, should make a contribution. And that is laudable, touching and well-meaning.

But it can quickly descend into sugar-coated sentimentality that soon evaporates when the immediate crisis is all over and the shops and pubs are open again.

These “ heroes“ will be forgotten, still remain some of the lowest paid in society, still abused because of the colour of their skin[2], still attacked by members of the public whilst doing their job (8.2 reported attacks on ambulance workers a day in Great Britain in 2016/16[3]).

So, let’s stop calling them heroes and using these war metaphors. Give them a decent wage, the right protective equipment and some kindness and respect. Now and in the future.

They need more than just a perfunctory round of clapping on a Thursday evening.

 Do you want to write a COVID-19 diary? Please get in touch! Whether you're a dental student, foundation dentist, dental core trainee, associate, dental nurse, therapist I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

[1] The secret weapon against coronavirus:women” ( Guardian comment of the role of women leaders in managing the pandemic )

[3] Violence against ambulance workers -GMB Union

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    covid 19 diaries with len dcruz no more


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