It is with a feeling of great privilege and responsibility that I start my 2-year term as your new IFEM President.
I am an Emergency Physician working in England in the UK, originating from the small country of Wales. Our outgoing president is Prof Sally McCarthy, to whom we owe deep gratitude for steering the IFEM ship through 2 years of the worst that the pandemic could throw at us all. As Emergency Physicians (EPs) I’m sure you agree that these challenges have run our batteries down. More on that later, but let’s start with upbeat news.
We have a new website! It looks better, navigation is easier and the search facility is improved. Sincere thanks to Miranda Smith our IFEM Communications Manager, who has worked so hard during this last year along with a team of people.
We held our first in-person ICEM conference since 2019! This was a milestone event and the atmosphere was buzzing. We’ll run a full report in next month’s newsletter. The content was themed “Better Care for a Better World”. The Australian College of Emergency Medicine local organising team and scientific committee worked extremely hard for this goal but with six months to go we were all nervous that it would be online only. Then travel restrictions lifted and within weeks nearly 1000 emergency physicians booked flights to Melbourne and what a success it was. The hybrid “in the room” arrangements felt inclusive of the over 700 EPs joining online.
Elections to the IFEM Board of Directors were held during the conference and I wish to congratulate and offer a warm welcome to our new Board, around half of which are new members and half are “familiar faces” who were voted in for another term. You can see my profile and the other 13 Board members here. In case you’re wondering who votes, it is IFEM members (national societies) who are “full members”. Under the green “membership” tab on the website you can see the nations and regions of the world that IFEM represents.
My last “good news” item is to signpost you to the IFEM Annual Report showcasing the amazing work that has continued to take place amongst our leadership team, Committees, Taskforces and special interest Groups, despite the challenges of the pandemic. Please take a look. It should inspire you.
If you’re feeling a bit flat though, you’re not alone. Here’s the “not-so-good news” item. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is conducting a global pulse survey on continuity of essential health services. This is to monitor the effect of the pandemic. Data is being collected from 129 countries. Data point 1 is from late 2020, data points 2 and 3 from early and late 2021. There are no surprises: essential health services are being significantly disrupted.
Potentially life-saving emergency, critical and operative care interventions show increased service disruptions, likely resulting in substantial near-term impact on health outcomes, with 37% of countries (by late 2021) reporting disruptions to ambulance services, 33% to 24-hour emergency room services and 24% to emergency surgeries. Emergency care was getting worse while other parts of the system were stabilizing.
I suspect that the 2022 data will show a worsening of this position. My colleague President Dr Katherine Henderson of the UK’s Royal College of Emergency Medicine gives us food for thought in this month’s newsletter: “So, emergency care, despite having been central to the pandemic response or because of being central to the response, is still adversely affected by the ongoing pandemic and the fragility of our systems to begin with, and the situation is deteriorating”.
Are we already victims of our own success? Is emergency medicine the default for lack of capacity in the system around us? How do we “make the most” out of being central to the pandemic response – is now the opportunity to show our politicians and employers what Better Care for a Better World looks like? As the phrase goes – “answers on a postcard please”! You can message me via [email protected] or on Twitter @IFEMPresident or follow me on LinkedIn.
But right now I’m feeling upbeat. ICEM 2022 recharged my batteries. Thank you team ACEM. In particular I wish to highlight their phenomenal success in sourcing sponsorship to enable a subsidy scheme for registration and travel. This afforded a large number of EPs from other countries the possibility of attending ICEM 2022. It was great to meet you all!