COVID19: Passing the crisis management test

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Three things the coronavirus pandemic taught us is that technology is not a bad thing, in a post-social distancing era we should reconsider our values, and despite taxpayer’s millions for the health service ‘revamp’, there was no chapter on crisis management.

The government has spent millions to set up new departments, some of which are nothing more than a brass plate change at the front door, while we have seen the creation of a number of commissioners who are supposed to coordinate between state services.

Even the one-stop-shop concept has struggled to get off the ground as only some sections of the government machine have realised the benefits of efficiency and on-time delivery of services.

Once again, the only real change taking place in Cyprus is driven by the private sector, with the initiatives taking place based on a principle of survival and recovery, no thanks to the short-sightedness of politicians.

The shortfalls in the healthcare sector suggest that since Day One of the present crisis, we have gone from one mishap to the other, trying to stick patches on a hole-riddled tyre that has been deflated as fast as new life has been pumped into it.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou, although not a medical professional, is doing his best in a juggling act trying to keep a balance between true superheroes and incompetent civil servants, to keep the GHS system afloat.

Unfortunately, many cabinet ministers have relied on information provided by their advisors, many times skewed, as was the case of the 2013 financial meltdown.

When a minister asks his collaborators, “how do we do this” or “what do we do next”, the answers range from a few, rare bright ideas, to those out of a 1960s manual of operation.

With the donated medical supplies and hospital equipment already at an overwhelming number, the obvious questions that now need to be asked are “is this sustainable” and “what should we do on the day after”.

The Cyprus health sector has been functioning relatively well, both pre- and post-GHS.

This makes one wonder, could we not have forcibly reformed public health and saved taxpayers some 40 mln (or more) for a system that 18 months later, is still fighting its demons with “teething” problems?

Could the past and incumbent presidents and health ministers not lure all stakeholders in state and private hospitals, to sit around a table and work things out?

Perhaps this foot-dragging is why it took the GHS some four decades to materialise, only to be fast-tracked in recent years partly propelled by the 2013 economic crisis and presently taken a step further by the coronavirus crisis.

What needs to be done now is, parallel to the ongoing administration of the pandemic, state health managers need to improve their administration skills, stock-taking is necessary of what supplies we have today and what we may need tomorrow, and introduce guidelines on how to coordinate and respond in the case of a disaster.

There is no shame in learning from or emulating other countries’ successes, and now is the right time to start working on how to be prepared for the next crisis, whatever it might me.

Health is no longer an issue tied only to the wellbeing of individuals and job opportunities for the well-connected. It is a matter of national security and should be treated as such.