Pope Francis has offered what Kim Daniels calls "powerful words" to lead the world out of the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic and on to a better future.
The pontiff's central message for the moment, she said, is: "The crisis we are living due to the pandemic is affecting everyone. We will emerge from it for the better if we all seek the common good together, otherwise we will emerge for the worse."
To advance the common good, Daniels said, society must prioritize solidarity and preferential treatment for the poor and vulnerable over individual liberty. "As many have said, freedom is the responsibility to do what is right, not the right to do as
you please," she pointed out.
Pope Francis addresses the misery being caused by COVID-19 during a speech delivered in St. Peter's Square in March 2020 during a pandemic lockdown. He said: "We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at
the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other."
Alamy Stock Photo
Daniels is a lawyer who co-directs the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. She is an adjunct professor in the university's department of theology and religious studies. Daniels is also a member of the Vatican
Dicastery for Communication and a consultor to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
She discussed the relationship between personal freedom and the common good during CHA's Theology and Ethics Colloquium in St. Louis in mid-March. It was the first in-person gathering CHA has hosted for the Catholic health care ministry since the start
of the pandemic. It drew 85 people.
The theme of the meeting was "Reflecting the Common Good." Each of the speakers touched on different aspects of how Catholic social teaching can guide the ministry's work as the world enters the third year of a pandemic that has claimed more than 6 million
lives worldwide and as related challenges including political divisions over COVID response continue to impact pandemic response in the U.S.
Daniels' work with the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life has led to many insights about how best to bridge polarization and move forward. She said that it's crucial to stay true to the Gospel
mission and focused on the voiceless and vulnerable; that friendship and community is built through face-to-face interaction; and that authentic dialogue respectful of the beliefs of others is vital.
"Catholic social thought offers a moral and intellectual architecture for resisting the erroneous autonomy that we are seeing too often in our world today and for resisting what Pope Francis has called the throwaway culture," Daniels said. "It instead
provides tools for renewing community and solidarity in the face of isolation and division."
Brian Corbin, executive vice president of member services for Catholic Charities USA, talked about that organization's focus on integral human development, that is, seeing that every person's basic needs are met and their talents nurtured.
"The one thing that we are committed to is to alleviate, reduce and prevent poverty," Corbin said.
Catholic Charities partners with Catholic hospitals and health systems in aspects of this work. He mentioned five affordable housing projects with on-site social services to address chronic homelessness that is a collaborative effort involving health
systems, including Providence St. Joseph Health in Spokane, Washington.
He also discussed efforts by his organization and other social service providers to have a voice in the shaping of public policies that, if developed without the common good in mind, could have lasting detrimental effects on some communities. He pointed
out that studies show housing policies that denied mortgages to people in largely minority communities, called redlining, continue to cause income and health disparities for residents of those neighborhoods even 60 years after federal law ordered
the practice halted.
Corbin challenged his listeners to use their institutional, economic and social power to change public policies that might have a negative impact on the health of disadvantaged communities.
Fairness for foreign workers
Mukul Bakhshi directs government affairs for CGFNS International, a nonprofit that validates the academic and professional credentials of clinicians seeking jobs in other countries. (The organization
was formerly the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools.)
During his presentation at the colloquium he noted that a global nursing shortage estimated at 6 million pre-pandemic is projected by the International Council of Nurses to reach 13 million by 2030.
Bakhshi said his and other organizations that assist in the placement of foreign workers grapple with how to ensure that those workers are not exploited by the individuals and companies that recruit them to work overseas. Another concern is whether the
migration of clinicians from countries with developing economies exacerbates shortages of health care professionals there. He said the complexities surrounding the recruitment and retention of foreign workers can make it challenging to decide what
is in the common good.
CGFNS International is a member of the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices and adheres to that group's health care code, Bakhshi said. The code covers accountability, responsibilities and rights for workers and employers. It acknowledges that "the legitimate interests and responsibilities of health professionals, source
countries, and employers in the destination country may conflict" but urges a "careful balancing" of those interests.
In remarks that closed out the second day of the three-day colloquium, Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, CHA president and chief executive officer, said the pandemic has "opened our eyes to the importance of the health of all people
in the world and how interdependent we are."
She referenced the work of CHA and its member organizations to address health care inequities, including through its Confronting Racism by Achieving Health Equity initiative.
"We've recognized, we've uncovered and we've taken off the Band-Aid around health equity and know how important this is going to be for our future work," Sr. Mary said.
She pointed out that health equity and many other priorities of the Catholic health ministry are in alignment with the health care priorities of the Biden administration and with the work of the USCCB.
A new buoyancy
When St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, USCCB's liaison to CHA, was installed as head of the archdiocese in August 2020, the pandemic was widening and vaccines were still in development. He said the health
care crisis has shown that healing and a focus on the common good are much needed.
He applauded those who have "done so admirably over these past two years in bringing the best health care under the worst possible conditions."
"I hope that this is a meeting that brings a new buoyancy to you and all of your roles, in being able to reach out to each other and to support one another and to know the critical mission of our Catholic hospitals here in the United States," he said.
Head of international nurse support organization expects 'migration tsunami'
The president and chief executive of an organization that supports registered nurses and other clinicians seeking to migrate to the United States says that he expects that there soon will be a "migration tsunami" of such clinicians.
Franklin A. Shaffer, who heads Philadelphia-based CGFNS International, says that various barriers brought about by the pandemic greatly disrupted the migratory patterns of registered nurses and other health care professionals traveling for career
opportunities. But with pandemic-related restrictions easing in some countries, and with some level of normalcy returning, individuals who have been in the process of trying to migrate for health care jobs will be able to move from country
to country more easily.
Further, a recent Associated Press article, "Strained US hospitals seek foreign nurses amid visa windfall," says that there is "an unusually high number of green cards available this year for foreign professionals, including nurses, who want to move to the United States — twice as many as just a few years ago. That's because U.S. consulates
shut down during the coronavirus pandemic weren't issuing visas to relatives of American citizens, and by law these unused slots now get transferred to eligible workers."
Shaffer says U.S. hospitals' constrained ability to recruit nurses from overseas during the pandemic has exacerbated the nurse shortage crisis.
CGFNS, formerly known as the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools, is a nonprofit founded in 1977 to help clinicians educated in other countries to live and work in the U.S., Canada or New Zealand. CGFNS does not recruit nurses and
other health care professionals, but it helps ensure that they are academically prepared for exams and licensures, according to Shaffer. It verifies their credentials for hiring organizations and regulatory authorities. It also provides support
with clinicians' moves. Nurses make up the majority of its clients.
Shaffer says the U.S. is the most attractive country to overseas health care professionals. Originally most of the health care professionals CGFNS worked with were from the Philippines but now India and Nigeria also are high up on the list.
Shaffer says while U.S. recruiters have been aggressively seeking to employ overseas nurses and other health care workers amid the growing clinician shortages, their efforts have been slowed by COVID travel restrictions and slow paperwork processing.
But those challenges are easing, paving the way for more overseas clinicians to gain entry into the U.S.
Shaffer notes that CGFNS provides safeguards to protect the overseas workers from predatory recruiting and unethical business practices, such as the changing of contract terms upon the migrants' arrival. He says CGFNS also is part of an advocacy
effort to ensure ethical use of labor, so that wealthy countries do not lure too many health care professionals away from poorer countries that can ill afford to lose these skilled clinicians.
— JULIE MINDA
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