MUCH more meaningful public engagement has to occur in any future health crises in Wales.
That’s the urgent recommendation of Gwlad chair, Dr. Sian Mair Caiach, responding to how the Welsh Government have dealt with the coronavirus situation over the past year.
She’s calling for a less top-down approach and more trust in the public’s capacity to engage with the evidence and make informed choices in similar future situations.
‘Policy decisions of government in such situations have to be more open, and include a spectrum of debate made available for public to watch and vote on,’ said Dr. Caiach, GWLAD’s candidate in Llanelli at the Senedd Election.
Dr. Caiach said the Welsh Government had not made appropriate use of their powers over the last year, treating adults like little children to all intents and purposes.
‘Keeping us in the dark has the result that many of us have lost trust in the government and have become sceptical of advice. Truth, however unpalatable has to be shared willingly so that the public can make informed choices’.
‘Announcements from a lectern and a few chosen scripted questions have all been very unconvincing overall’.
Dr. Caiach said there were also wider health lessons that had to be learnt and heeded in the wake of the virus.
‘We have had to deal with an unknown SARS virus, inadequate facilities (such as the complete lack of infectious disease units in Wales), and little bed capacity in an NHS stripped to the bone’.
‘Convalescent wards and small hospitals were eliminated for cheaper’ care in the community’, and our care homes were poorly prepared for treating severely ill elderly patients with covid’
She added that almost a year on, very little was really known about the virus, leaving many unanswered questions still to be resolved.
‘We have the fact that the Covid tests have been prone to false positives and negatives, so the actual figures themselves may not be totally accurate’ she said
‘The efficacy of vaccines still remain a mystery, what is the success rate, do they prevent transmission to others…? This may take months or years to know’.
She recommended that building capacity had to be a priority moving forward in Wales, with specific wards set aside to treat infectious patients apart from general hospital wards.
Along with PPE stockpiles for emergencies, and regular training for clinicians and managers in the principles of pandemic management.