Jo Nova shares the contrast between effective management of Ebola by private enterprise and the shambles of bureaucratic aqpproaches in the U.S.
Company stops Ebola, Bureaucracy puts it on a plane
Compare the response of The Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia to the Hospital in Dallas, Texas.
The rubber plantation has 8,000 workers with 71,000 dependants. It is an hour north-east of Monrovia, surrounded by Ebola outbreaks. The virus arrived on the plantation in March. Knowing that the UN and the Liberian government were not going to save them, the managers sat around a rubber tree and goggled “Ebola” and learned on the run instead. They turned shipping containers into isolation units, trucks into ambulances, and chemical cleaning suits into “haz-mat” gear. They trained cleaners, and teachers, they blocked visitors, and over the next five months dealt with 71 infections, but by early October were clear of the virus. There were only 17 survivors (the same 70% mortality rate as elsewhere). But without good management, there could have been so many more deaths.
In contrast, the nanny-state takes a good brain and stops it thinking. In Texas, trained health professionals were caught unprepared, following inadequate protocols they assumed were good enough, and even risking their own lives. A nurse who cared for a dying Ebola patient — and knew how bad Ebola could be — still needed to phone someone to ask if it was OK to board a plane with a slightly raised temperature (99.5F or 37.5C). The official she spoke to “didn’t Google”, they just said yes because her temperature was lower than the official threshold of 100.4F. Let’s not blame her, she was doing her job, is now fighting for her life, and almost certainly did what so many others would have done. Let’s ask instead how we train workers to know that officials can sometimes get it wrong and they need to think for themselves. When the officials fail so badly, in so many ways, the failure is not single-point, or bad luck, but systemic. The nanny-state is selecting networkers and smoochers instead of decision-making leaders. Officials rarely lose their jobs and golden handshakes, or face a seriously investigative media — which would keep them on their toes. Surely either the nurse who called or the bureaucrat who answered would, if left to their own devices, have figured it was not ok to fly–but by the smothering dumbness of of bureaucracy she ended up flying.
Stability is good, but the system is so stable it’s ossified. Executives were so busy telling everyone not to worry, they forgot to worry themselves. The Firestone plantation is an inspiring story. It gives me hope.
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