To all the wonderful supporters of the Baird Institute, I send greetings and good wishes.
This has been a truly extraordinary year. Nothing quite like it since the scourge of the Spanish Flu in 1919, which even an old-timer like me did not witness.
The grim news of COVID brought frightful danger; the repeated warnings to wash our hands; the sudden appearance of hand sanitiser and facemasks; the daily reports on infection numbers; the terrible statistics of death and suffering; the images of emergency wards; the sudden urgency of ventilators to ward off the fiendish grip that this novel coronavirus takes upon the lungs, especially of elderly victims; the world of lockdown and isolation; the heroic work of the doctors and the nurses and administrative and support staff. All these images enter our minds and we will never forget them, even when COVID-19 has departed.
Everyone who has had close connection with The Baird Institute knows of the outstanding devotion of Australia’s medical, nursing and healthcare professionals. This message has recently been made vivid in our country and also in England. There, everyone from the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister, the ministers of state and all the ordinary citizens have joined in applauding the heroic work of the health professionals in the NHS. It has been the same in Australia. Fortunately, we took earlier urgent steps to act with resolution and determination. The consequence is that, at the time of writing this entry, whereas Britain has suffered nearly 26,000 deaths (165,000 infected) and the United States nearly 78,000 deaths (1.3 million infected), we have suffered about 97 deaths and many of those were infected on cruise ships.
This goes to show how important it is for governments and citizens to give active support to community responses to the necessities of healthcare that protect and save our lives. This is true of a completely new challenge such as COVID-19. But it is also true of heart and lung disease which remains a major health crisis in Australia and will do so long after COVID-19 has departed.
Tackling the endemic challenge of heart and lung disease cannot be effective if it is left to health professionals alone. As with COVID-19, it requires their leadership and highly professional care. But it also requires leadership from government. Leadership from civil society. And participation from citizens, patients, their families and friends.
If ever we needed to be taught the importance of community participation in responding to a very serious health crisis, COVID-19 has renewed that lesson.
Just as citizens came together to support each other in the battle against coronavirus, so we must come together to support each other and The Baird Institute in tackling heart and lung disease. The secret is the same. Brilliant medical leadership; the best of modern technology; candid information and explanations to the community; the use of modern media of communications; and strong political engagement.
We must turn the lessons we have learned from COVID-19 to the challenge of heart and lung disease. The Baird Institute deserves our support when the sound and fury of COVID-19 has died away.
With all good wishes,
The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG