I saw a patient from flight NZ1 at 4pm today. She was complaining of mild sore throat and runny nose which she thought initially was due to the aircraft air conditioning. She heard the news about the swine flu and so rang Healthline who, like the clueless people they usually are, immediately sent them to a doctor. A doctor with plenty of people in his waiting room that were just excited to be unnecessarily exposed to swine flu. Not to mention admin staff, nurses and the lucky doctor, me.
As I am not working in public hospitals at the moment, I did not have access to the much vaunted “plan” that DHBs are supposed to have. The MoH have released some blurb that says I should discuss the case with the clinical virologist at Auckland Hospital, a harrassed-sounding woman who seemed quite upset about being phoned, and directed me to public health. Public health was very helpful and instructed us to send the patient home immediately. They were going to send someone to the patient’s home; a far more sensible arrangement.
I seems to me that there is a distinct lack of co-ordination at all levels of the health service on this matter. I am particularly appalled that Health Line – whose number is given out routinely by the Herald for those seeking advice on swine flu – tell patients to leave the house, travel to a busy A&E, A&M or GP and cough their viruses all over the waiting room. That would have to rank as one of the most spectacularly bad pieces of advice I have ever heard.
I also note that, by 4 o’clock this afternoon, the public health department had not even rung my patient, let alone visited her. So when John Key says that “New Zealand’s response to the threat of swine flu has been swift, thorough and appropriate“, he clearly meant “slow, spotty and disorganised”.
I am sure my patient will be fine. Hopefully by now some nice person from the public health department will have given her some antivirals, although one Christchurch man had not been contacted by the health department, despite going to an A&M clinic today. At any rate, that noted medical expert, Bill Ralston has told us that this is not Ebola, which I am sure will be comforting to the relatives of the 100 mexicans who have died so far.
Anyway, in the interests of public health MacDoctor provides you with the 0800 number that the nice public health person gave to me (at 20:45 tonight) for people who are concerned that they may have contracted or been in close contact with swine flu.