Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Despite the technological advances and services apparent in the world of healthcare and present in our modern day, the unfortunate truth is however, that not everyone has the opportunity and fortunate accessibility to such medicalization. Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of a disease or infirmity. Therefore, I am not sure if it is right to consider the Canadian society as a healthy one.

Why? Well, unfortunately, it is because of the socially constructed beliefs that we tend to initiate and hold within that automatically label others as inferior and unhealthy due to their belonging to a certain group. Yes, as Canadians, we are made to believe that we are all alike and no one gives the right to treat any other in an ethnocentric manner. But the truth of the matter is that such ‘equality’ is only a paradox in theory, for we are certainly ethnocentric creatures tending to favor our own kind over any other distinct kind.

The Canadian healthcare is an institution that may seem to be taken seriously. When compared to other countries in the category of healthcare, the Canadian healthcare system is one that we point to with pride as a distinguishing feature of the Canadian landscape. From a cultural perspective, providing open access to medical services allows us to construct a national narrative in which we view ourselves as being progressive and just. Having universal healthcare however, does not mean that all Canadians experience medical services in a universal manner.

For in reality, not everyone has the same privileges and equal accessibility to such a health system that is full of biases and prejudices. Our medical system is one that is engendered and as such favors men to the detriment of women. Nevertheless, our experience is also subject to variance depending upon one’s ethnicity and socioeconomic position in society. One area to mention, relates to ‘sexual orientation’. As a distinct population, women and minority groups tend to face a myriad of unique healthcare concerns, including discrimination and difficulty surrounding the use of the advanced technologies and services.

As presented in the book ‘Is Anyone listening’, Jo-Anne Kirk, attempted to introduce in her article on ‘Gender Inequality and Medical Education’ another article written by David Osborne on ‘women in medicine’ which explained that women tend to agree that the male body has and always will be considered the norm in anatomy diagrams and text, to the extent that if both sexes go to a doctor with abdominal pains, automatically they are viewed as two completely different systems (Jacobs, pg 183).

It is quite unfair that the male body represents the norm against which standards of health are compared. Since women’s bodies are considered as different from that of man’s, in being more complex in its design and more mysterious and challenging in its workings, as well as their socialization in differing significantly from men, this judgment is therefore inappropriate and potentially harmful to the female sex. The Canadian Healthcare system, also takes its toll on immigrants living in Canada, for it unfortunately cannot adequately address the needs of this population.

Due to language barriers, being unfamiliar with Canadian resources and networks, the lack of financial or political power, just to cite a few, are all idle and impertinent obstacles for even if immigrants or women find the courage and strength to voice their concerns, their words will most likely fall on deaf ears. After all, both women and men are participants in this recklessness, both help to perpetuate this dysfunctional model and both loose, although perhaps in different ways, by allowing an unequal, engendered system to remain.

It must be stated however, that this represents only one of many key institutions through which the state is able to maintain the gender divide. In this instance, the question then, is how does this construction weaken a woman’s decision when she must reside and act within a hostile environment in which her engagement within society is pathological? Well, the only reassuring thing is that as a social construct, the medicalization of the female body becomes a dynamic and an ever evolving process, one that is enacted upon and created by individuals, through which fortunately change is always possible.

The political economy of the Canadian Healthcare is one other major consideration that I cannot fail to mention. Canada’s aging population and the resultant increasing demands on medicalization, imposes a major threat on the Canadian healthcare system. Such rising expectations and demands have placed additional strains and pressure on the system’s performance. Thus, the increasing public demand for physician and hospital services will consequently have a major impact on future costs as well.

As we are at a phase of profound cutbacks and fiscal responsibility, the current state of the healthcare system is marked by cost-cutting which of course inflicts a negative impact on the nursing profession and accordingly and most importantly patient care per se. Today women (and men of course) are paying more for private health expenditures including prescription drugs, eye care, dental care, home care, long-term care, and non-physicians’ services.

Both women and men are affected by government cutbacks and rising health care expenditures, but nevertheless, both women and men do not experience nor have the same financial resources to cope with these changes. Women, on average, tend to earn less than men, have lower incomes and are more likely to live in poverty. Women are less likely to have supplementary health insurance coverage through their paid employment. As a result, women face greater financial barriers when health care costs are privatized and hence experience more health problems.

As argued in the book ‘Is Anyone Listening’, in Tania Das Gupta’s article on ‘Racism in Nursing’, Tania attempted to successfully introduce the deteriorating state of the economy on healthcare, as hospital spending declined, nurses and other hospital workers raised concerns over job losses, understaffing, higher workloads and increased levels of stress leading to a hapless situation in causing the quality of patient care to sink considerably, thus, unfavorably affecting the motivation, enthusiasm, passion and spirit of the medical team, and as the nurses and healthcare employees in the medical genre proclaimed, “quality care has definitely gone out the window” (Jacobs, pg 121).

In some situations, the lack of hospital beds can cause overcrowded facilities or delays in treatment which can become very daunting. The public also expressed concern about access to services, patient safety and quality of care. Therefore, at this point I cannot help but gaze in wonder and ask myself, is it safe to trust my doctor today? Well, from a personal perspective, I repudiate medicalization in Canada, and speaking from personal experience, if you will, I can not help but express hostility towards patient care in Canada; and as Kristin Blakely mentioned in her article on “Who Else Would Do It?

Female Caregivers in Canada”, that ‘The Canadian healthcare system is one that is in crisis as all the ingredients of a recipe for a disaster fashion our system, since all Canadians will be affected in someway or another by the healthcare crisis’ (Jacobs, pg 251). Despite its severity as an illness, and its mutilating chromosomes that impede its potential for remedy, SARS, abbreviated for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is a virus that has landed on this earth to forever stay. There is more to the virus than its contagious defeating purpose, ‘SARS’ has become a discriminatory contagious disease as well, where the use of the SARS virus has become an excuse to stigmatize any group of people in our communities. People of a certain ethnicity are being treated differently and are being stigmatized due to the outbreak of SARS.

It is rather quite unfortunate, that now, we can also get stereotyped and prejudged according to our nationality, and this is however the current state with Asians and mainly the Chinese population accomodating in Canada or should I say worldwide? One’s own personal health has eventually become stigmatized with one’s own nationality. SARS has become labeled with the Asian population and thus they are viewed as unhealthy beings whose presence can be intimidating and risky. The never-ending discrimination that has been taking its toll between blacks and whites for centuries, has now become apparent between Asians and the rest of the world as well.

The Canadian community has involuntarily become stereotyped and delineated with the SARS virus as the Asian community and mainly the Chinese, the originators and welcomers of the virus ‘SARS’, constitute the majority of the Canadian population. Whether it be conscious or subconscious, people are constantly blaming Canadians who look Chinese for the Toronto outbreak of SARS. A Chinese immigrant Family can be described by the media as one who brought back SARS into Canada, but when does someone stop being an immigrant? This Chinese immigrant Family is actually Canadian with a Canadian citizenship, but I guess in such circumstances, you are where you come from and not where you live and possess citizenship.

Sadly enough, ignorance that has become manifested through discrimination has even led some people to believe that it is only the Chinese Canadians who are the only ones prone to catch the sly virus ‘SARS’. It is quite frustrating to witness the treatment Asians tend to get from non-Asians in Toronto, Albeit it is involuntary, but I must say if it were voluntary it may not have been as hurtful, as one Asian starts coughing in the subway station, the whole subway starts to raise eyebrows, while fidgeting and moving away, and others start gazing and whispering in a very obvious and cunning manner. At this point you can not help but scratch your head in disbelief and anguish for encountering such a discriminatory incident.

SARS is a newly identified clinical entity that has gained global recognition as being the next possible global epidemic. SARS has rapidly spread to several countries and appears to have the capacity to extend to all points of the globe. Doctors and researchers around the world have mounted the difficult task of identifying the nature of this unknown virus in an attempt to render effective methods of containment and disposal of SARS. The origination of SARS is unknown; however its roots have been determined to lie within China. China’s irresponsible management of the initial phases of this virus has rendered them the partial culprit for its rapid dispersion.

The initial attempt to suppress and cover up the growing epidemic during its inception in November of 2002 prolonged the global medical communities’ awareness of the growing severity of the problem. Physicians and journalists were silenced and one physician was even quoted as saying, “we were told to keep our mouths shut about it”. Hence, as the virus rapidly spread, the possibility of isolating SARS and its specific starting off point became increasingly difficult. From a more global perspective, the spread of this virus across continental borders is due to the international travelers who are unsuspecting carriers. And this was how the virus was welcomed into our city of Toronto.

Due to its underestimation of the intensity and risk of the virus, Canada has without a doubt failed to take immediate action with the initial arise and apparent symptoms of the virus as it became visible in the Canadian population. The virus could have been controlled and restrained had instantaneous activity been taken from the start to minimize the spread of the virus. More discipline and rigorous regulations should have been enforced on the Canadian society to decrement if not eliminate the spread of this killer virus. It would be unfair for me to protest and proclaim that the Canadian government had failed to take action towards halting the spread of the illness, but I do believe that the action was taken rather too late.

According to Caroline Mallan, a journalist at the Toronto Star, Caroline claims that Premier Ernie Eves, continues to reject calls for a full, judicial probe into whether the SARS outbreak was actually mishandled. Eves however, gives the excuse of ‘confidentiality’, replying that there obviously had to be some privacy concerns in terms of patients’ medical records and medical information that should and had to be dealt with in a private manner. The registered nurses and practitioners go on to advocate that they were definitely ignored when they voiced concerns that the virus had re-emerged. They believe that had their warnings been immediately dealt with and the virus was contained earlier, fewer people would have become sick and died, claimed Adeline Falk-Rafael President of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.

The virus wouldn’t have spread so rapidly and ostensibly, but there would have been less morbidity and mortality as well”. As the Nurses at North York General Hospital state, that they were ordered to tell the public there was no SARS at the facility should anyone phone inquiring. This whole predicament has only brought out the fact that there was no real government strategy to control, respond and manage SARS; it is quite obvious that there was a clear lack of co-ordination among governments and thus the result was disastrous. Today, the expansion of the virus ‘SARS’ has been profoundly diminished and if you will, nearly eradicated in Toronto.

Working with the Government of Ontario and the City of Toronto, the Government of Canada provided support to control infection and ease the burden of health care workers. The Government of Canada has also screened travelers in major airports, boosted research efforts in the search for a vaccine, protected the blood supply, and developed a SARS national public health strategy. On an international level, Canada has been working in active partnership with the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address the challenge SARS poses internationally. Credit must therefore be given to the government of Canada in attempting to successfully control the spread of the illness, even though it was a late call, but the outcome was certainly worth it.

Such control included healthcare professionals and equipments lent to Toronto’s public health authorities. Through their National Microbiology Laboratory, the Canadian government took successful action in researching into the cause of SARS and searching for an effective test and the future development of a vaccine. It has also attempted to locate 1. 5 million surgical masks to allow the Province of Ontario to increase its supply of this important infection control device. In addition, two mobile x-ray machines and processors were sent to Toronto to help with the identification of the virus. The government has also organized an international conference with experts from around the world to further develop the SARS national public health strategy.

And most importantly, intensive action was taken at Toronto’s airport which certainly helped improve the predicament Toronto was sunken into, such action involved passengers being strictly screened by stationed quarantine officers and healthcare professionals at Pearson and other airports; and intensified the screening measures for any outgoing international travelers at Toronto Pearson Airport; additional screening measures were also taken for incoming international passengers at all airports across the country where passengers arrive through Canadian Customs locations; nevertheless, it must be also noted, that on the whole, the government of Canada has funded a total investment to date of $360 million in federal assistance for SARS.

Now, even though preventive measures have been taken and activated strictly all over the world and active case control measures are nevertheless showing positive results. With the ramifications of fear and panic people have endured during the SARS ordeal, their fears have lead to unfortunate racial profiling. Post-SARS complications are taking a critical turn in sociological context. SARS victims are carrying a social stigma almost equivalent to other contagious diseases like AIDS.

After recovery from SARS or even suspected SARS, patients are discharged from different referral hospitals with fitness certificates but they are not getting back their previous jobs. Most of them are facing social barriers and isolation in their own community. According to a research report, it narrates that ‘among 150 patients cured from SARS, 45 persons developed psychosocial disorders. None of them suffered from psychological ailments before SARS infection’. How distressing is that? Due to the extensive media coverage about this disease, there is now a long standing after-effect on the public’s mind about the ‘droplet spread of infection’ which is probably, scaring them to accept those post SARS patients back to their family or community.

This is obviously the result of illiteracy and social taboos. It may take time to come out of this post SARS syndrome, but meanwhile it is better to make people aware and sympathetic towards post SARS patients and help SARS victims to recover from their traumatic experiences. SARS related social stigma and discrimination have been detected as a serious social problem and the public needs to be compassionate and sensitive about it. And I must say that if current SARS victims are discriminated against, then do not be surprised when future SARS sufferers get discouraged to seek proper medical attention in time and we hence get submerged in the same cyclic ordeal once again.

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