James Batchelor

It looks like we are coming out of lockdown, though the number of infections of the Delta variant are increasing in the UK. I have been staring at the number of hospital admissions data that, although they have gone up, remains nowhere near as high as earlier in the year; this all points to vaccination levels within the population.

However, this is in stark contrast to my friends and colleagues around the world. In weekly meetings I have with hospitals and Universities, I hear the disparity between what is happening here in the UK, where the number of infections has been terrifying, compared to other countries such as India, Brazil, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa.

This week I had a call with three clinical colleagues on Zoom.  Christiana appeared in her gleaming white coat, hair net, black surgical mask, and as always, the most amazing sparkly glasses! Until this call, I had not known that she is the only intensive care doctor in a hospital looking after a population of 1 million. I have no idea how she remains so positive despite the dire pressure on the hospital and her personally.

Despite having both doses of vaccination, the other clinician had just managed to get back to work after contracting COVID and being dreadfully unwell and is now suffering from long COVID. Although she explained, “I am a little muddled and find it hard to concentrate.” In an attempt to make light of this, I suggested that it was probably due to having a meeting with me!

Generally, although this pandemic is bad here in the UK, it pales in comparison to some parts of the world where the health systems available are not anything like those in the developing world, even in non-COVID conditions. I have watched hundreds of women and children queue to see one doctor in Bangladesh, toured the state hospital in the Philippines where the emergency rooms were being swilled with buckets of hot bleachy water to wash the blood away, and witnessed a labour on the floor with only a blanket being held up to preserve a mother and her soon-to-arrive baby’s modesty.

I have also reviewed health systems responses to conflict, watched forensic footage of civilians being bombed in the Ukraine and Syria, looked at the casualty numbers, the types of injuries and have seen the shocking statistics of women and children who are the primary beneficiary of injury in conflict areas globally.

The world is not a nice place sometimes and it got me thinking about our priorities here in the UK and, more importantly, in the University. We are very fortunate to be in an institution that supports us in our endeavours and goals to make the world a better place and is probably one of the primary motivating factors that makes us get up in the morning and come into the lab or office to sit down and pick up where we left off the day before.

I then think about what colleagues would do from some parts of the world if they have access to the facilities and the support we have and what amazing things they could do to support their faculty, hospital, town, city or country, and perhaps more crucially, the patients they care for. This is highlighted in the severe lack of clinical staff and specialist staff in some countries, as in the case of Christiana.

In the UK, almost all of us are offered and have received a COVID-19 vaccine. We have a home that is supplied with clean water and the freedom to do and be what we want. We are not displaced. We are not persecuted, and no one is dropping munitions on our heads. I am hoping you can think about how lucky we are!

Though ‘Freedom Day’ is coming and restrictions are being lifted, I hope that things don’t deteriorate as it’s partly in our individual hands (to some degree) to help protect each other. For instance, I will still be wearing my mask. My question and challenge to you is can we please take the time to look after each other, support colleagues, embrace the opportunities we are lucky to have, and not grumble about things that are not that imperative in reality? Keep things in perspective and maybe take a moment to think about colleagues in other countries far less fortunate than us.

Speaking of appreciating what we have, I hope you all have a good restful weekend enjoying the sun.

Some Statistics of Healthcare and Equality—this list could be a lot longer!

Source: World Bank Data
Country Doctors Per 1,000 people

Ethiopia 2018: 0.1
Ghana 2017: 0.1
Angola 2017: 0.2
Philippines 2017: 0.6
South Africa 2017: 0.9
Sri Lanka 2018: 1.0
Brazil 2018: 2.2
United Kingdom 2018: 2.8

To note: Tanzania, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Liberia, Niger and Chad all reporting 0.0

Source: AOAV monitoring
People killed in populated areas by explosive weapons between 2011-2020 who were civilians: 91%

Source: Our world in data
15,000 children die every day – Child mortality is an everyday tragedy of enormous scale that rarely makes the headlines.

Source: ILGA, Equaldex,

While LGBTQ rights have made great strides in parts of the world, homosexuality remains illegal in an estimated 70 countries, and 10 countries carry the potential for the death penalty.

COVID disparity around the world by Professor James Batchelor

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