By Annamarie A. Fuchs, Creator. Partners in Health | Conversations

September 29, 2022

WARNING: This article contains language that some may consider offensive.


“The groundwork of all happiness is health.”

Leigh Hunt


When I was a child, hospital signs stating “Quiet, Hospital” could be found surrounding most neighborhoods where hospitals were located across Canada. There was a broad societal awareness that hospitals were places to be respected and that we should behave in such a way where patients would rest and recover in quiet, safe environments and where the health professionals providing the care were given the support to do so.

Hospitals were bright, sterile environments with a certain ‘smell’ of disinfectant. White coated and uniformed people walked quietly but quickly from place to place, looking focused, involved, and indispensable. And many from my generation who encountered ‘that’ system longed to one day establish healthcare careers of our own because of what we witnessed.

I don’t miss the white of the uniforms or the strong disinfectant smell; the new hospital aesthetic is much more calming and welcoming today. I appreciate seeing health professionals dressed in more casual and colorful scrubs, engaging in conversations as they move about the facility. Artwork graces hallways and plants are often seen in atriums or scattered about in large planters. Hospitals seem more like part of the community than they once did. But beyond the big blue “H” that points toward the locations of hospitals, little of the respect of bygone days remains.

I read in horror recently that a physician’s office received a call:

“We received a phone call at my office this morning from a man calling me a ‘f-ing Jew Kike’ for speaking on @TheAgenda (a radio show) as a family doctor about the importance of masks and other COVID19 public health measures. I’ve reported this to police as a hate crime. This is NOT a civil society.”[1]

What saddens me beyond witnessing or reading about this sort of repugnant behavior is the potency of the antagonism for healthcare professionals we see virtually every day on social media, in the news, and in our day-to-day encounters. People commonly are heard directing their contempt toward the same people who will one day be called to care for them when they are at their most vulnerable.

A generation ago, our physicians were almost revered. I’m not suggesting we go back there but I am suggesting we restore morality, respect, and decency with each other. I’m one of those people who has been advocating for and encouraging healthy and equal partnerships between health professionals and the people they serve for the better part of my nearly 40 years in healthcare. But I never could have believed that in the space of a few years, we would be regularly seeing physicians and other health professionals being attacked both verbally and physically on a daily basis.

One physician I’ve worked with in the past reported that he has cried twice since the COVID pandemic began. The first time was when he was in an ICU watching a patient say goodbye to family on an iPad via face time. The second time was when he stared out his office window at protestors screaming obscenities and waving posters at the very people who were exhausting themselves and putting themselves in harms way to try to save people like you and me. Another physician contracted COVID and spent weeks in bed, only to return to work as soon as they were barely able. And a nurse I know and once worked with reported being on duty when a physician colleague died. He had been attacked in his clinic by an angry member of the public that morning.

What has become of Canada’s once respected and largely benevolent culture? Have we traveled so far down the rabbit hole that we’ve lost sight of who we are and who we aspire to be? Do we understand who our providers are as community members and human beings, and how as a society, we could be consolidating our trust and working together to restore our national identity and ultimately our healthcare system?

At Partners in Health | Conversations, we have attempted to offer glimpses to the public into the world of healthcare to enable people to better understand some of its enormous complexity and to demonstrate the incredible sacrifices that are made every day across this country for people like you and me. These are people who made the decision to dedicate their lives to serving others. Many health professionals I have worked with also volunteer their time, speaking to the media, supporting social causes, and educating others. The work becomes more than a career, so much so that very often these same people struggle to recognize and implement strategies to create the work life balance that is essential for their very survival and the survival of the health system at large.

It’s time to stop behaving with such contempt. It’s time to be accountable for every conversation we take part in. It’s time to think. To ask questions. To engage in solution finding. If we expect reliable, high-quality care from the health system and the people in it, we MUST respect and appreciate those people and each other. Activism is healthy but it is critical that we learn how to participate in conversations as effective, respectful activists! A healthy culture is reciprocal. It is what unfolds when we live and work and participate in trusted relationships with each other and in our communities.

Want a better health system? Try taking a good long look at your own attitudes and potentially mistaken beliefs about that system and the people in it. Start educating yourself. Learn how to advocate for change and to communicate respectfully. In doing so, you will be contributing to renewing an environment where we might once again experience some of the mystique, the reliability, and the respect for the health system that once existed.

[1] Posted at 7:39 am to Twitter on September 7, 2022.


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