NZ Swine Flu response woefully inadequate

I’m sincerely hoping that the latest flu scare turns out to be not so bad, and that everyone with it gets well soon. So far the signs are that only people in Mexico have died from it, and hopefully the 14 (latest figure) people with it here are going to respond to treatment.

I sincerely hope that happens because our health services have responded with the professionalism and urgency that reminds me of the Gisborne Tsunami response from Civil Defense – who responded after the tsunami would have hit, because they were all in bed at the time, the tsunami warning coming outside business hours and thus being a bit inconvenient (why can’t these things happen to match our time scale?)

The whole point of having an emergency response plan is that when something looks like it might go wrong you get going, fast.

This kind of response from so-call health professionals scares the crap out of me, I quote:

Auckland Regional Public Health clinical leader Julia Peters defended the response time, saying health authorities could not act till they knew what they were dealing with.

“As soon as we got a provisional diagnosis we swung into action and began contacting people …”

She said test samples were not sent to a specialist lab in Melbourne before Monday because they required special preparation and packaging.

Put in plain English it seems to mean, we were slow off the mark because we didn’t think it was so important and or systems are chaotic and need work. That you would wait until you knew what you were dealing with and assume that would be a sensible approach is willfully negligent.

The virus isn’t sitting around waiting for a Melbourne test result, and it sure isn’t waiting for Julia and the Auckland District Health Board to figure out how dangerous it is, it’s busy spreading amongst the population.

It seems to me that when the WHO says it’s serious, you immediately isolate everyone you suspect of having it. You also don’t do the sort of isolation that ADHB did with one family where two members were confined to the house while the third occupant (wife) was allowed out and about. WTF was someone thinking with that idea? that’s not smart, it’s just plain stupid – even a five year old could work that one out.

As a result of ADHB reaction, or lack of reaction, the Health Minister says we are now just going to worry about dealing with it, rather than containing it – which is impossible now because the response was too slow.

The justifications for the response now really seem like convenient excuses, Dr Jacobs (Public Health Director) says;

“There is no indication it is any more or less contagious than any other form of influenza”

The problem with that statement is that at the time, the ADHB didn’t know that, they did know people were dieing of it in Mexico and therefore should have assumed it was going to kill people here. 

Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups and in this case the ADHB assumed a whole lot of things they shouldn’t have given the information on hand. It would be interesting to see the responses if in fact people had started to die. 

We shouldn’t be surprised, health professionals screw up quite often here and are never held to account, so their attitude is not surprising. If this does get out of hand, then those responsible for the terrible response should be prepared to resign. For too long we have been at the mercy of the somewhat arrogant attitude of some health professionals, they are playing with our lives and need to be held accountable for their actions. 

If we’re lucky, then things won’t be too bad, but what happens next time? The health services seem reluctant to admit mistakes, and slow to change their systems, usually people have to die – often frequently – before finally enough fuss is made and Health Professionals grudgingly ‘look at’ their systems and actions. In this situation there was a potential for hundreds of people to die, possibly thousands. Yet the response from those whom are responsible for decision making is as opaque as ever. The attitude with some in the health sector to take personal and collective responsibility is disgusting and needs to be changed quickly.

I’ll leave you with this from… which is a terribly polite way of putting things…

Auckland doctor Jim McVeagh, who works at a private accident and medical clinic, said everyone should have been contacted immediately it became apparent passengers had symptoms of the deadly swine flu.

Dr McVeagh treated a patient on Monday from the same flight as the infected pupils. She had rung Health Line and been told to visit her doctor “one of the most spectacularly bad pieces of advice” he had heard.

“I am hoping this isn’t a big deal, because we’ve probably already missed the boat with containment. I think the Health Ministry has been a bit tardy, a bit relaxed.”

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