We had joined before with others to salute and extend warm gratitude to the battalions of healthcare workers, who brave their own fears to face up to the daily challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those hailed have been primarily frontline doctors and nurses, emergency responders at the scene and emergency staff in medical units overwhelmed by the real and the imaginary, the life-threatening exposures from both incoming patients and to themselves. While this is rightly due and deserving of every accolade that could be voiced, there is yet another group in the caring ranks of medical facilities that also should be recognized and commended. This is what we do today for those who stand between us and the ills of this pandemic that seems to be reborn in the different strains that emerge daily.
They are unseen and lacking in visibility for the most part, they are unknown, other than by the colleagues they support from the shadows, and they are unheralded because their contributions go unnoticed on the outside. We point to and speak of those ambulance drivers, attendants transporting the many stricken patients from emergency rooms to wards or Intensive Care Units, the cleaners and the men and women manning pharmacies in medical institutions crowded with the fearful, the sick and the hoping. We move on to mortuary workers in and out of hospitals, who work through daily to do their duty in the face of their dreads. They are human too and just like any other person, no matter the level of courage still in high supply, they have their own quiet apprehensions with which they grapple.
Because they are out of sight and at the bottom end of the medical pyramid, they may even be unappreciated in the fevered rush of events and with the strong emphasis on those manning frontline battle stations in this war against the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemics do not know any limits; they sweep all before them. As revealed by the startling caption in the New York Times of May 6th, “Three hospital workers gave out health masks. Weeks later, they all were dead.” These three were from “the often-invisible army who keep New York hospitals running.” Whether New York or any other place in the world, including Guyana, that invisible army makes a tireless and sustained contribution. These workers, who order inventory, replenish stores, and distribute supplies. Some are paying with their lives.
There are others, who we are unable to identify by grouping, but we reach out to comfort them for their efforts on behalf of the peoples of this nation. All of them matter, all of them are cherished. Though this is what is needed at this perilous time, we must remember to appreciate them when the storm has shifted and things return to some state of normalcy, however that may be defined.
And as we applaud them for their dedications and efforts, we would do well, all of us, to remember the families that they go home to on a daily basis, or whenever they are allowed to do so. As their loved ones sacrifice and give of themselves, families struggle to cope with their own deep worries that could render them impatient, even lacking in the degree of understanding of what it is that is before us. We reach out to them, also, and ask them to be strong in this time of harsh and lethal circumstances.
As we recognize this largely inaudible and “often-invisible army of workers” we take the time to point out that they are low paid, function under conditions of low regard, and feature low down on the totem pole of corporate considerations. We are all for, and strongly recommend, that when the worst of this virus (and the other one) has passed, that private institutions and those of the state make it a priority to treat them well and treat them right. Do what counts in tangible and meaningful form. Make them feel not only needed, but recognized and treasured, too.
We say hello and many thanks for a thankless job well done. Thanks to all of them for turning up and delivering amidst the frights and discomforts that proliferate.
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