Our pandemic priority – First, do no harm

Primum non nocere is Latin for “first, do no harm

Another equivalent phrase is found in Epidemics, Book I, of the Hippocratic school: “Practice two things in your dealings with disease: either help or do not harm the patient.” The exact phrase is believed to have originated with the 19th-century English surgeon Thomas Inman. Doctors honour this ethical guide not to harm their patients.

Right now there is disagreement about whether Madawaska Valley residents should be welcoming their neighbours during the annual cottage season. Why? Because some locals are afraid that cottagers coming from the city will bring COVID-19 with them and cause harm to those who live here full-time. Above: Carson Lake residents in Madawaska Valley send messages of hope with hearts. Photo montage Pauline Burchat

That fear is prominent enough that municipal council members have received complaints demanding that this be addressed for the well-being of tax payers. Some of this fear is grounded in the prudent protocols that have been enforced by provincial and federal government leaders in this country during COVID-19. This fear is also influenced by COVID-19 spreading in neighboring communities resulting from sports gatherings or workers from another province. As you approach Bird’s Creek in Hastings County from our Valley there is a large construction traffic sign that says, “Stay Home, Stop the Spread of COVID-19.”

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this border crossing a message for Madawaska Valley residents and others to abstain from entering Bancroft?
  • Do some residents want the OPP to act as gate keepers who fine individuals travelling between regions or neighboring towns?
  • How many full-time Valley residents shop at No Frills in Bancroft or Renfrew vs. staying home to shop at local grocery stores?
  • How many full-time Valley residents prefer going to Walmart or Home Depot in Pembroke just for a drive vs. ordering online from those stores or from the local hardware store.
  • When driving out of Madawaska Valley do you consider whether you might contract the virus and bring it back home to your community, or do you refrain from leaving?
  • Do any of us have family members leaving the Valley for cancer surgery or treatment in a city centre or other environment that has a greater risk of exposure to the virus? Did you suggest they not return or did you recognize that protocols have value?

First, do no harm

If essential workers leave the Valley for work, if the sick leave for health reasons, or tax payers return to their cottage homes, the right attitude should be: “First, do no harm.” That means you should support the health and well-being of others by self-isolating for two to three weeks, wearing a mask when you go out in public, etc. “The Township has been asked what our statement is regarding COVID-19 and what we are doing about seasonal residents returning: The Township is reiterating the Federal and Provincial messages: STAY HOME! STAY SAFE! It really is that simple.” April 6, 2020 Facebook/Madawaska Valley

Only a few weeks ago our “snowbirds” returned and children of many Valley residents returned home during peak periods of this pandemic. They were welcomed by their families but isolated themselves within the family home; i.e. staying in the basement receiving meals in the basement stairwell, using masks, and keeping apart. A close friend of mine who is an essential worker in a city hospital had her son return from a school exchange in Germany. She picked him up from the airport, handed him a surgical mask, covered the passenger seat in blankets, placed his suitcase in a large clear garbage bag and had him leave this and his clothes in garage before washing and ensured that he self-isolated within two exclusive rooms in the house. The principle is: “First, do no harm.”

This week one resident posted on the internet: “… May comes, people will want to head to their cottage as they normally do. In my own personal opinion let them. Just please follow the social distancing rule but if ‘summer cottager’ wants to sit 6 ft. apart from ‘local resident neighbour’ and have a coffee together, let them. Just try to bring your groceries from home to help with the overuse of our local stores. No more than five per gathering and enjoy. I’m not sure [of] the problem with that.” Facebook/COVID-19 in the Madawaska Valley area

What is and is not mandatory in Ontario

“But in Ontario, while remaining in your primary residence is what the government is encouraging you to do, it’s not a mandatory order…. the office of Ontario’s solicitor general, the Ontario Provincial Police and municipal politicians in cottage country did eventually confirm that there is no restriction on travel to secondary residences ….City dwellers are being asked to exercise good discretion should they travel, and to bring their supplies with them, so as not to buy out all the stock at grocery stores at the long end of logistics lines that have been disrupted all over the province. Yes, the provincial government, and many rural residents, would prefer that the city folk simply stay at home. But it’s not mandatory… Yet there’s one exception…you’re not supposed to ….launch your boat or take a cruise to your cottage, if you have a different primary residence.” These excerpts are taken from an article by Matt Gurney, National Post   

More hearts at Carson Lake Photo montage. Pauline Burchat


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *