I was answering some interview questions the other day…for a review & publication coming out in June, and it made me think…
The gist of the question related to some of the themes covered in the story – in the context of the pandemic. “The book identifies many challenges for health systems and in the novel, it seems there are many considerations that come before patient outcomes…. Do you see synergy with the current COVID-19 crisis?”
I groaned a little, because although the book is being launched in the middle of the first global pandemic in a hundred years, that was not my original plan. Mind you, if I’d been able to predict a pandemic and schedule an 18-month writing and production process to coincide, I would have got into the gambling business not the writing game! On the other hand, I think there was a sad predictability to this disaster, and worse, a sad disinterest in the obvious strategies that could have been in place to mitigate it. From my work life I remember frustration from trying to sell ideas around disaster preparedness – reaction is way less effective than preparation.
The Cut does raise a number of issues which are paralleled in the Covid-19 response. There are lots of examples where people are parsimonious with the truth, defensive about the challenges that clinicians presented, or demonstrate lack of integrity by pursuing self-interest in industry and government responses to the disease. The Cut picks up on many aspects of challenge in healthcare and life. The concept of limited resources and overwhelming demand is featured, as is the concept of political influence – a reality in all health systems. Had I been able to forecast the bizarre extent of that interference in the current disaster, I think I would have beefed up that theme in the book even more. Really: presidents spruiking drugs, politicians denying contagion, industry dismissing disasters, profiteers proliferating… It’s taken the grim reaper to get them all to cut the crap and get on with saving the world! Bizarre, but true.
In the Cut, some of the personal impacts for people working in health systems are confronted – as is the way we work within our own limitations and imperfections to do the best we can. Through Harvey’s podcasts, the book also challenges us to look for simpler and better ways. In the cover blurb, as well as promoting the drama and fictional plot, it reads: “This is an absorbing novel about damage and death, safety and survival, evil and ethics, and the ever-present hope for a better way”.
These themes are very relevant at a time when world health systems are stretched beyond imagination and government and personal agendas abound. The book’s catch line postulates that “saving lives is meant to be above politics” – a topical and rational aphorism.
But the big question is – will we learn the lessons the pandemic wants to teach us?