It’s always helpful to hear how other people cope with life's challenges. Over the next few weeks we are dedicating the Being Well blog to a series called Being Well in Difficult Times. We've asked a range of health professionals 3 big questions to see if there was anything we could learn from them.
In March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 threat Dr Michael Kidd was appointed Principal Medical Advisor to the Federal Department of Health and Professor of Primary Care Reform at the Australian National University. These days GPs see him almost daily in a regular webinar reporting on the status of the COVID 19 pandemic.
We wondered how it felt to be looking at the pandemic from his perspective. Is it as anxiety provoking as what you are experiencing? Which aspects are a concern from where he sits? How does he cope with those concerns? What lies ahead?
Michael was generous in his reflections.
What are your biggest concerns about the pandemic?
I am concerned about the global impact of this pandemic, both to date but also in the future, the terrible death tolls being seen in many countries, the impending impact on so many low and middle income countries, the deaths of health care workers in hard hit countries, the impact on socially disadvantaged groups of people here and around the world, and much more.
I am also concerned about the impact on those I love, my family members who are living in other parts of the country, and my many dear friends and colleagues across Australia and all around the world, especially those who are elderly or at increased risk.
How are you managing your anxiety about these things?
It is normal to feel anxious at a time like this, and to worry about what is happening and what might happen. I am finding some comfort in small things, in controlling what I can control through attention to hand hygiene, physical distancing measures, reducing risk of potential contact with the virus, in reaching out regularly to my loved ones and seeing their faces and hearing their voices, in regular exchanges of messages with dear friends and colleagues, and turning off the relentless media onslaught an hour or so before bed.
And if I wake in the middle of the night, which is happening reasonably frequently, not worrying about being awake but reading a book for a little while, or listening to an audiobook or some music, or doing some meditation, and then drifting back off.
Do you think the experience of this little bit of history will make a difference to you or your plans for the future?
I wonder how lasting the impact will be and I hope that some of the positive changes and reforms we have seen will be enduring. It has been extraordinary to watch the Aussie spirit at work across our country, with people looking out for each other, making sacrifices for the good of all people, saying hello to strangers when out exercising, respecting the physical distance rules while shopping.
The changes in health care delivery have been profound with the move to telehealth and the ability for GPs and other health care workers to reach out to their patients and check up on their wellbeing from a distance. I have also been impressed about the focus in Australia on ensuring the safety of all people, but especially those who are most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, elderly people, people with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with mental health concerns, people who are homeless, individuals and families on low incomes, and many others.
I am also excited about the innovations and discoveries that we are seeing; we know that in the past during pandemics some of the greatest scientific discoveries have happened, some of the greatest works of literature and art and music have been created, so I am keen to see what comes out of this as well.
For me, having been recalled back to Australia from my global roles with the World Health Organization and the University of Toronto to support the national efforts, I expect that my global health work will continue but from a distance for at least some time to come.