Pope Francis’s April dedication through the Worldwide Prayer Network encourages Catholics to keep healthcare workers in their prayers and commit to building systems that support them to deliver universal, quality care for all people.
“The Pandemic has shown us the self-giving and generosity of healthcare workers, volunteers, support staff, priests and religious men and women,” says Pope Francis in his message.
“The pandemic has also exposed the fact that not everyone has access to a good public healthcare system. The poorest countries, the most vulnerable countries, cannot access the treatments necessary to attend to the countless diseases that they continue to suffer.” This follows on from Pope Francis’s World Day of the Sick message in February of this year, which was dedicated to the mission and dignity of healthcare workers throughout the pandemic.
Although Australia is a ‘lucky’ country, with a reliable public health system comparative to other nations, as Catholics we need to always assess who is being left behind and how they can be helped, individually and systemically.
Even in a country as prosperous as Australia, many of the most vulnerable still fall through the gaps in our public health system. The pandemic has exacerbated and exposed these inequalities. Catholic Health Australia’s research into the impact of the pandemic demonstrated that it was indeed the vulnerable who suffered the most from the onslaught of the virus and subsequent government restrictions.
How you fare health wise, still depends on where you live, what you do for work, your cultural background, and your gender as well as any other complex health need or disability you may have.
This is not something Catholics should accept, whether it is in Australia or elsewhere in the world. We do not subscribe to the idea that what is good enough for most, is enough. We must seek out every individual and tend to them with care and dignity.
How do we begin to address such a deep complex issue? The Pope’s advice on this is one of relevance to Australia.
As healthcare is not just an organisation, it depends on the men and women who dedicate their lives to taking care of other people’s health. And, according to Pope Francis, they need resources and political commitment.
As a nation we can work harder to support our healthcare workforce, including volunteers, pastoral carers, and religious orders. We need to acknowledge their vulnerabilities, hardships, and their courage particularly throughout the last two years. And we need to advocate for political commitment on the resources that are needed to sustain these workers.
The Pope’s message on resources and political commitment is timely, as Catholic Health Australia advocates for long lasting reform from our government including but not limited to solutions to
address the urgent issue of funding for aged care, dwindling healthcare worker numbers, as well as long overdue attention to palliative care resources and mental health.
There are many who fare worse than us across the world when it comes to accessing quality healthcare. But there are things we can do right in Australia that address the vulnerable in our own backyards. The Pope’s message is for us “lucky” ones too.
Brigid Meney is the Director of Strategy and Mission at Catholic Health Australia. Republished with permission.