36. Do not ask a front line doctor how this crisis is being managed

There has been a lot of criticism of the management of the coronavirus pandemic by government coming from the medical profession, particularly from those in overwhelmed emergency rooms. The criticism is not only on specific local problems, but often on national or global policy decisions, it’s given a podium by the media and it’s listened to by the public. This makes sense, right? It is a health emergency, listen to the doctors. But this is a mistake. Doctors in the front line don’t know what effects policy decisions are having at large and they don’t know what their close environment would be like if they had not been taken. Their view, at the height of the crisis, is catastrophic, because of where they are. Their opinions are coloured by availability bias, which we should all be aware of, and this means we should all read Kahnemann and Tversky. Would you ask an extremely busy, single, divorce litigation lawyer whether marrying is a good idea? You do not get the wider view from the soldiers in the trenches

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Comments

Niccy said…
It is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can really say that a decision made was good or bad. Imagine a few parameter changes, and all of a sudden the decisions made by leadership during the management of this crisis would be being applauded and praised by the masses in the same way that the NZ response is being praised. Which to me seems to not take into account the entirely different subset of circumstances that prevail in New Zealand.

Personally, I am now sick-fed-up of the constant media coverage, and even more so the lay-person-social-media criticism, of the response and management of the government to the crisis. While I am sure they could have done many things better, or differently, I think the analysis should wait until 'the end'. And the analysis should serve some learning purpose, not simply politicking and public opining. It is more than *just* the medics who seem to feel qualified to judge these decisions, the outcome of which we have no knowledge of yet
SantiDominguezV said…
Niccy, you could not be more right in my opinion. Spot on. The analysis should be done after, with the aim of learning. We cannot expect perfect management of an uncertain, unknown, unprecedented situation.

I of course have no issue and am sympathetic with medics telling what is happening in the front line. We are struggling, we canont cope, we have not enough ventilators or PPE. All this is fine, they are telling what they see and it is important that, as a society, we know what their situation is. What is not logical, is deriving conclusions about the global or national management of the pandemic on the basis of some of these front line tales. We blame the management for these difficulties, as if it was possible to go through a pandemic without any, with perfect management. So, the medics tales are good and important, but they should not stray into national policy opinion, and the public should not react with fury at politicians, but rather understanding that this is a very difficult situation in which we will have to accept some difficulties. Everybody seems to ask: 'What is my country not doing for me, and nobody asks what can i do for my country to help in this situation', to paraphrase JFK.

I have even seen threats of legal action and calls for resignation by PM, president (depending on country) and Health Ministers. This is nonsensical in the middle of such a crisis, and personalises the management, that is being led by a team of experts, not a specific political figure

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