By KIM BELLARD
The never given is free!
Admit it: you’ve been following the story of the huge container ship stuck in the Suez Canal. It’s about the size of the Empire State Building laid flat and ended up blocking one of the world’s busiest waterways.
As bad as it was for global shipping and for all of us who depend on it, great hilarity ensued. Memes have exploded, using this as a metaphor for almost everything, including healthcare. Once he started hoping to get Ever Given for free, people started new memes that it should be “handed over. ”
Well I’m a sucker for a funny meme and a good metaphor too. Our health care system is that channel, and we are the ill-fated ship. Only, it does not seem like we are going away anytime soon.
The Ever Given got stuck a week ago. It is one of the largest container ships in the world, but high winds, poor visibility (due to a dust storm) and, perhaps, human error literally turns things aside. He got stuck on the banks. Over 300 other vessels were blocked as a result; alternative routes add several thousand miles to travel, which makes it a difficult choice between wait / hope and redirect.
The Suez Canal carries around 10% of the world’s maritime traffic, worth up to $ 10 billion per day. It has been around since 1869 – much longer than the equally important Panama Canal – and has been widened / deepened several times since. Ships keep getting bigger and bigger, carrying more and more goods, such as globalization has created boom times for maritime transport (or, rather, maritime transport has created boom periods for globalization).
As the stirs to Atlantic Put the, “We’re going to need a smaller boat.”
As soon as it became clear that the Given Ever was not going to be released soon, supply chain impact warnings have started, such as toilet paper or household appliances. It was like last spring, but for different reasons. During the pandemic, we suddenly discovered that relying on just-in-time globalization for essential pandemic supplies like masks and other PPE, prescription drugs or ventilators was a risky gamble.
We have so many problems, in the United States and around the world, and Ever Given just seemed to characterize our frustrations; so memes. Travis M. Andrews summed it up in The Washington Post:
Let’s put it this way: when someone joked As we are five minutes away from hearing that “all of our vaccines were stored on the big ship stuck in the Suez Canal for some reason,” it took an uncomfortably long second to realize that this is fiction. It all seems so absurd, so ridiculous, so perfectly suited to the state of the world that it has crossed the bridge from “obnoxious” to “hilarious”.
If we don’t laugh, we might cry.
We must keep in mind that, like Admiral James Stavridis (retired) warned in Time, the Suez Canal is not the only vulnerable choke point. He cited the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Bab-El-Mandeb, the Strait of Hormuz, the Bosphorus Strait and, of course, the Panama Canal as others. His warning:
Last week it was the Suez Canal, but in the years to come, all of those choke points are vulnerable. Preparing now to face potential challenges makes sense, instead of trying to figure it out as we stumble as happened during the recent Suez Crisis.
The pandemic surprised most of the countries. We didn’t have the right tests, in the right quantities, and the United States in particular struggled to get into mass production. Few countries were ready to carry out the necessary testing and contact tracing. At first we didn’t have enough masks, then the masks became a political flashpoint. The FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) freely, sometimes on the basis of good data, sometimes not.
Our underfunded public health system has struggled to move forward, but the lack of a national plan, lack of necessary authority and partisan attacks have weakened responses. Many public health officials have received death threats and scores resigned because of the pressure.
Thanks to good luck, good science, or Operation Warp Speed, we now have several very effective vaccines. Despite this, marking an appointment to get one often has looked like The Hunger Games, and, even when we had one, there was no systemic way to track who got what type and when.
Yet vaccinations are finally to skyrocket. We are still a long way from collective immunity, but people are starting to have hope. Maybe too optimistic; we see people during spring break and Reopening states as if there was no pandemic. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she has a sense of ‘imminent doom’, admitting, “We have so much to hope for, so much promise and potential from where we are, and so much to hope for.” But right now I’m scared.
We should all be.
The pandemic has reminded us of the problems we have in our healthcare system. First aid wadeand things have become even worse for rural hospitals. We have had no good way to track or report the necessary data. Our underlying comorbidities made us more vulnerable to COVID-19. The colored people were hit the hardest and are getting vaccines – less by reluctance than by availability. The loss of jobs means millions also lost health insurance.
All of these choke points are vulnerable. This time it was COVID-19, but none will go away even if / if COVID-19 does.
Like these container ships, we are getting bigger (Unfortunately), and our health becomes more complex, with most of us having chronic health problems. Unlike the Suez Canal, our health system was not built in the 19e century, but it is still largely based on its 20e roots of the century (eg medical education, hospitals, employer-based health insurance). He’s not ready for the 21stst century.
We might like to think that COVID-19 was a one-time event in a century, caused by fortuitous winds that got us into banks (and aided by human error), but the point is there will be always unfavorable winds, surf and bad human decisions. We are in danger of running aground again.
So let’s take advantage of memes. Let’s wear our masks and do our vaccinations. But when it comes to our healthcare, we had better take Admiral Stavridis’ warning to heart: “Preparing now to face potential challenges makes sense, instead of trying to figure it out as it goes. and as we stumble.
Enough of tripping.
Kim is a former emarketing executive in a Big Blues plan, editor of the late Tincture.io and now a regular contributor to THCB.