It’s Monday evening, just after seven. GP Chakib Sana is in the car, on his way from his clinic in Delfshavn to his hometown, about an hour’s drive from Rotterdam. He just had an unexpected emergency meeting about the booster shot, so he asks on the way. “Speaking to the media, this often takes a while. But I think it is my responsibility to explain it.”
And not just for the media, explains Sana (42). In the television studio in Rotterdam, he met internist Robin Peters of Erasmus MC. Together, they are laying out a plan to reduce the information gap about vaccination, amid concerns about low vaccination rates in disadvantaged areas. For the past year, the two, along with other general practitioners, can be found weekly on the market for jab talk.
In addition, he is also working on a PhD research project at the university on the effects of corona on general practitioner care and is a board member of Landelijke Huisartsenkring Rotterdam. And all this in addition to his general practitioner work. What does he pay?
Why did you have an emergency meeting with general practitioners?
“We are feeling the hot smell of Omicron and wanted to see if we could also, in addition to the broadband vaccinations by GGD, contribute to boosting the injection. Think of a place where it is not allowed to enter or inform the vulnerable – people who do not have DigiD, or who are digitally literate. — to help them make an appointment. It’s a lesson from the first rounds of vaccination: not just large-scale injections, but also small-scale, precise, accessible networks.”
Does it make you feel hopeless, new swing and new lock with the holidays?
“When I heard we might be getting into custody again, I was sad and desperate for a while. But I actually put that back to work during the day. In fact you have no choice but to help out again as a doctor. It’s now important to give everyone a boost as soon as possible. So we can all get out of it.”
Yeah, are we going out like this?
“Of course there may be a new variable, so that’s not certain. But I still hope. On the other hand, we’ve seen recently how much misery humans can cause. But it’s also the time when we see how much a human can do. Now we can do more. Much more than we could at the end of last year. We already know a lot about this disease, and we can treat more people at home. This gives me hope, in 2022 as well.”
What could have been done better with the vaccination process?
“Vaccination is a multi-layered problem. Part of the problem has been communication. For a long time the idea was: We’ll be there after the summer, when everyone is vaccinated. But now it’s Christmas time and we still don’t exist. That makes it difficult. What I notice most in practice is people saying : “Doctor, I don’t understand.” They simply lack information and ask, for example, “Why, if we already have two shots, we also get a third?” Do we also need a fourth? When will you stop? “
Which also plays a role: for some people the government cannot be relied upon, for example because of the issue of allowances. We focus our media campaigns on them and on people who lack information. Research shows that ninety percent of people still trust a doctor. Conversation in a familiar environment, the market, with a familiar face, their GP, helps. Then they have to make their own decision. This is also important: we listen, but do not push. ”
Why did you become a general practitioner?
“I wanted to be a pilot, and that would always be my childhood dream. But I decided to go see a doctor anyway. I really wanted to help people. The great thing about being a doctor is that you can put the complaint into perspective. As a general practitioner, I build a relationship With patients, whom I know sometimes for life. As a result, I am not treating a disease in the consulting room, I am treating a person. With one, I make a completely different decision than the other, even though they have the same diagnosis. A lot can play a role: age or Family composition or other risk factors.
You’ve accomplished a lot of additional tasks this year: You’re also in the market, talking about your work on TV, and devising booster injection strategies. How much extra time do these tasks cost you?
“A lot. From the moment we thought about being at the market, we’re there every week, except for summer break and fall vacation. Now with closing, that’s not possible for some time. It was an assault on your time: on Saturdays I’m in Delfshaven. Plus, We supported colleagues in other parts of the country when necessary, when they took to the streets.”
How can you keep up?
“The most important thing: the home front. My wife is also a GP, so she understands what I am doing. Her support keeps me going. But also the support of colleagues who step in at important moments and clarify their agenda if necessary. In addition, I try to make choices: separate the main issues About side issues. Otherwise, you’ll live ten or twenty hours a day.”
“And I rest well. When I’m at home, I come home, and I get a good night’s sleep. I take my moments to go for a walk outside and connect with friends and family. That’s how I charge.”
How do you look back in 2021?
On the one hand, I am satisfied. We are taking advantage of the opportunities we had as a general practitioner. The call I received from Robin Peters and I was listened to to provide better information. We managed to put that on the political agenda, Hugo de Jong came in after we wrote him a letter about the information gap. Launch a media campaign in other languages as well. So that’s good. But we’re not there yet until the information is within everyone’s reach. This is why an initiative like Doubt Telephone is so important. People can use that to call if they have doubts about a vaccine.”
Did you also have difficult moments?
“I had to say goodbye to a lot of people. It’s even more painful when patients die of misinformation. I’ve had patients panting and saying, ‘Doctor, I want a vaccine.'” But then it was already too late. Those moments really touched me. Not much Who: “Man, man, man, this is your fault.” Of course not. But the real grief of the impact of misinformation. As doctors, we always deal — and rightly so — when we give people the wrong treatment or misinformation. But the moment someone is exposed is somewhat for misinformation Social media If he died, there would be no consequences. This hurts.”
You also regularly join talk show tables and always take the time to talk to the media. why are you doing that?
“The first time was exciting: representing a group of GPs is a responsibility. Words have meaning and can have consequences. But it is important to do so, the need for information is high. I remember exactly that: my first pandemic on April 9 in Rheinmunde. On April 24 With a patriotic call at NOS. On RTL4 and in the evening in Nieuwsuur with Robin Peeters. These are important dates for me and I don’t forget them – just as personally important dates like my children’s birthday and my wedding day.”
You are from Afghanistan. It must have been a tough year with the Taliban taking power in your country of origin as well.
“It sure was. The country has now been set back twenty years in one fell swoop, which is very painful. Afghanistan has been a country in recent years where there have been opportunities to go to university, no matter how small, to build something for yourself. This is now in danger of being lost. There was Soldiers from Holland also years ago, to prevent what happened now. Very snappy.”
Do you have a lot of family there?
We still have a whole family in Afghanistan. Cousins, cousins and aunts. They are now going through the same thing we were twenty years ago. When I was sixteen I ran away with my father to Holland. This is for me a personal and painful story, which I don’t say much about. Catch when you have to leave your home country. As you get older, homesickness sometimes starts.”
How did you experience those first moments in Holland?
“A world is open to me. At the center for asylum seekers I had a lot of contact with other young people who grew up in other cultures and countries. Everyone had their own story, and I was also curious when I was young. So I looked into my eyes. There are many teachers from language schools who encouraged me to make something in my life. In the end you have to do it yourself, but you must be given opportunity and confidence. That is the most important. And when it comes together, you can go far.”
Does 2021 also look like the year of a GP reassessment?
This applies to physicians in general, including general practitioners. General practitioners received a lot of care from a hospital in 2021. For example, we had a difficult conversation about someone’s wishes, in case Corona knocked on the door, to prevent doctors from having to ask someone gasping for breath. And now we wear the glove too: the sluggard who lives in the house gets pricked by the GP.”
“What worries me though: As a general practitioner, you’re trying to ensure access to health care. This is especially under pressure right now. It’s partly due to the government, but partly due to the people themselves. It amazes me that people have so little knowledge of their own bodies.” I think we need to gain more confidence in our health and learn more about our bodies. So that everyone knows whether or not they should contact their doctor.”
What is required of the government?
“Interconnected GP sites are very important in the long run. When a new neighborhood is built, the GP’s location is not always taken into account. This is a missed opportunity: if a GP has a good site, they can better treat and inform all patients in the area. This way we can Raising a healthy generation.”
I have already written a novel about a boy who fled Afghanistan. Is Corona also worth the book?
He laughs. “Sometimes I post on LinkedIn right now. With that I try to put some ideas that come to my mind on paper. Sometimes I feel that need. We experience so many touching and inspiring moments during this time. But for the book, I have to let everything crystallize first. From knows the future.”
What are your plans for the new year?
“I would like to further narrow the health gap. By that I mean that your socioeconomic status really determines how many years of quality health you have. Just imagine: if you have fifty euros to spend a week, it is difficult to fill your stomach with healthy food. And then it becomes easier to switch to food containing On a lot of calories, with all the attendant risks. This is the new gap that we will have to fill in the future. By closing this gap, we are building a healthy generation and we can better handle a new pandemic.”
“I just want to be able to go on vacation again. I would like to go back to Afghanistan, but it is not possible. So then I dream of a tour of my wife’s homeland: Turkey. Without QR codes, masks and face models.”
What is all this effort — on the street, in practice during the pandemic, but also in the media — that is costing you?
I can’t spend the time this takes with my family. My 2-year-old has grown up during this pandemic and I miss moments of it. It is a time that passes and never returns.”
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