A Message of Cautious Optimism
By Nancy L. Belcher, Ph.D., MPA
CEO, King County Medical Society
As we mark over 500 days of WA's COVID-19 response, vaccines are readily available and businesses are reopening - but many of us are left wondering how to react. The winds of change have certainly begun to blow. Like many health officials, we are concerned about the huge drop in demand for vaccines across the state, the global healthcare disparities, and how our physicians are holding up.
As you know, KCMS worked hand-in-hand with PHSKC and the WA-DOH to provide PPE, update the State's vaccine database, distribute telehealth equipment, and facilitate vaccine enrollment. We have saved many lives, so that makes it particularly hard to now see so many people refusing the vaccine. We are sure you are dealing with the same concerns. The American Medical Association has provided tips to help you with patients that are choosing not to get the vaccine (link below).
As the WA State Secretary of Health, Umair Shah stated, we need to avoid a "tale of two societies" - those that have had the vaccine and those that have chosen not to. While we are blessed to have the option, that privilege is not available to all. Other governments are racing to vaccinate populations as novel variants emerge, while here in the US not only are vaccinations declined, but physical distancing, mask-wearing, and other public health interventions are relaxing. We are now in a position of having excess vaccines, and the US plans to purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to donate to other countries struggling with a limited supply.
I'd not only like to recognize this challenging dichotomy but also to call out very loudly "THANK YOU" to the health care providers for their endless compassion and service during this unprecedented time. No one group has done more to bring care, comfort, and strength to the millions of people who contracted COVID-19 than the world’s health workers. Sadly, Amnesty International reports that more than 17,000 health workers died from COVID-19 in the first 12 months of the pandemic. For their brave, selfless commitments, we are grateful.
The world owes you all more than just its gratitude, it owes you genuine support to make sure that you are properly treated by your employers and government. In our own little world of King County, we are working tirelessly to support you, and help you to achieve success. Sadly we have seen many of your colleagues leave medicine due to burnout.
There is a new study (link below) that suggests that reducing burnout requires organizational-level changes that value teamwork, balanced interests, and open communication to keep physicians engaged and happy. KCMS is here to provide you with the voice and support you deserve, help you resolve inequities that might arise, and/or connect you with colleagues. Please let us know how we can help. We are here to support you every step of the way. Thank you all!