Margaret is a National and International Patient Advocate, advocating for safer heath care, she is former Global Lead for World Health Organisation’s Patient for Patient safety, member Patients for Patient Safety Network Ireland.
When visiting a doctor, patients expect a listening ear, an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment. Margaret Murphy encountered the opposite – a flawed health system that lacked the capacity to respond to her 21-year-old son’s deteriorating health. “Every point of contact within the Irish medical system failed Kevin,” explains Margaret. “Simple measures were not taken and he needlessly lost his life.”
“Patient advocacy is a responsibility that has been thrust upon us by our experiences,” says Margaret. “We know we can’t change the past, but we can use the past to inform the present and influence a better future.”i
COVID 19 – Unexpected and Welcome Consequences
Published 11th May 2020
Now in the third decade of my patient safety advocacy journey it is strange to find myself considering that Covid19 is in fact contributing to the advancement of the founding principles and core values of the global advocacy movement, established in 2004 as the WHO Patients for Patient Safety Programme.
Our call from the outset has been for care that is delivered with head, with heart, with hand – that is employing intellect, compassion and skill. That call also asked for greater transparency and disclosure together with meaningful engagement and involvement in healthcare at all levels as a right for patients, families and civil society – the intention being that we would become co-producers and co-creators of safe care. Despite the best of intentions, it has been a hard slog and uphill struggle.
‘We have all been cut down to size’
But in recent times, it seems to me that the intent and aspiration is coming to fruition, now that we are assailed by a common enemy, an enemy that presses on regardless irrespective of race, creed, position or title. It is clear that we all - each and every one of us – have been cut down to size We are all equal in our vulnerability. Perhaps it is the combination of that powerful vulnerability and equality of fragility that is fuelling the significant leadership magnificent response from all in our society.
‘we now be trustworthy and deserving of being true partners in this call to action’
We can see how this is playing out. Our healthcare and political leaders have been open and honest (some would say brutally honest) with us, explaining the rationale for the escalation of the various measures to improve our chances of coming safely through this onslaught by an invisible adversary.
We deserve no less and we want no less. Those leaders keep emphasising that we are ‘in this together’ as they enlist and urge, indeed entreat, each of us to rally to the call – to do our bit in tandem with the Trojan efforts of those on the frontline who turn up every day to continue to provide healthcare at no little cost to themselves and their families. If this is not co-creation and true engagement, I don’t know what is. This is what we asked for. This is what we demanded in what were more ‘normal’ times and sometimes less receptive times. Just as we entrust ourselves and our loved ones to healthcare it is important that we now be trustworthy and deserving of being true partners in this call to action, that we observe the guidance and comply with recommendations.
The level of leadership and directness of communication has been admirable. It comes from co-ordinated sources:
(a) from all our political leaders who have demonstrated a level of gravitas and statesmanship that is both reassuring and commendable.
(b) from our healthcare leaders who are grappling with the complexities of our situation at so many levels and who, it is very clear, are not sparing themselves in planning a way forward and out of this dilemma.
For us the rallying call is one which has proven to serve us well in previous ages: UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL. NI NEART GO CUR LE CEILE. This is the time for us to HOLD…. HOLD…. HOLD to be gladiators in solidarity against the current threat……
Embracing that new identity of being a homebird is counter intuitive for many of us 70+ elders as is cocooning and focusing on ourselves as spectators. Positivity and finding that ray of hope is crucial and which puts me in mind of the words of the poet Arthur Clough and devoted assistant to Florence Nightingale:
Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been, they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.
As we all work together in cooperation and consideration may brightness and sun soon be restored to our land and to our lives. We home birds look forward to release from our gilded cages when like golden eagles we will soar to new heights while in grateful thanks for the gift of new insights, for family and for the volunteers who have minded us so beautifully.
Rath De orainn go leir.
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