"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
The Second Coming
Terrorist-created death visited the New York healthcare system again last week. A city that has already lost paramedics, firefighters and police officers in the World Trade Center attacks was rocked again with the demise of a 61-year-old hospital stockroom worker from inhalation anthrax. A second employee of the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital was being treated for the cutaneous form of the disease, but appeared late last week to have escaped infection.
Whether the death of Kathy Nguyen of the Bronx was linked in any way to her work remained a mystery late last week. However, the news cannot help but unnerve many hospital workers in New York and the rest of the nation. Institutions that save the lives of others must now be concerned for the safety of their own employees.
The record of the federal government thus far has not been encouraging for any citizen, let alone hospital executives and caregivers. The much-vaunted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies have found they suffered from a kind of hubris regarding anthrax. They thought they knew more than they did. Their reassurances must be less than reassuring now to hospital personnel on high alert.
Healthcare workers are likely to find themselves increasingly on the front lines of this terrorism war. Their jobs will be made even more difficult by a lack of good information on what they are dealing with. Nevertheless, we are sure they can rise to the challenge.
The terrorists are consumed by hatred and the need to destroy. Those in the healing professions are driven by compassion and the desire to create a better world. If the best of us maintain such convictions even in chaotic times, the evil ones will fail and the center will hold.