Pig Death Flu Apocalypse Virus

'Swine flu', which for those following me on Twitter, seems to be one of the things I'm encountering more and more often these days. Let me explain some of the ways in which it is impacting my working life of late.

  • While the government leaflet says that masks offer no protection from the 'flu, our latest flowchart for dealing with it mentions not only masks, but also aprons and gloves. We have gone from having a pair of masks and a pair of aprons in our infection control kit to having as many masks as you want. To be fair we did have to steal resource masks from the hospitals that we went to at the start of this outbreak, but supply problems seem to have been sorted out.
  • Our call rate has gone from the normal 4,200-4,500 calls per day to around 5,200-5,700 in the last few days. This is an increase of around 26% Rather obviously this is having us run ragged. I have no idea if our sickness rate has increased (with staff being off with the Death Plague). What this has done is raise our DEFCOM level to 4. Which I don't think makes a huge difference to those of us on the road.
  • Hospitals are refusing to see Swine 'flu patients unless they are incredibly unwell. I was nearly turned away from the hospital when taking in a woman with vaginal bleeding and dizziness because she had possible Swine 'flu. Do GPs do vaginal examinations and diagnosis? Or would this woman have been sent in by the GP anyway (given some of the… 'quality' GPs we have in my area it wouldn't surprise me if she were just sent up to the hospital without an examination). There is huge paranoia about letting anyone with a high temperature and the sniffles within hospital grounds. My question is, will hospitals be turning patients away in the Winter when the more dangerous 'flus are epidemic?
  • We are seeing plenty of people who call us for Swine 'flu symptoms, as well as those who just mention 'chest pain' to our calltakers – thus guaranteeing an ambulance response. Quite a lot of people think that Swine 'flu is a death sentence even though this particular strain of 'flu seems to be a lot less dangerous than the normal seasonal 'flus.
  • We have the normal increasing number of people collapsing from the heat – often their first thought is that they are dying of Swine 'flu.
  • We are being told to leave people at home to look after themselves (heh, people actually looking after themselves, whatever fantasy scenario will our people think of next); this makes us ambulance staff somewhat nervous – after all there is the perception (if not the fact) that leaving people at home will only have us losing our jobs when someone dies.
  • An example of one of our 'clients' – she called four ambulances over four days as her child has Swine 'flu, which isn't 'getting any better', despite being told that it can take over a week to feel better. Needless to say the child involved is fine if a bit generally unwell – certainly nothing that requires hospital treatment. Multiply this by the number of people across London and you can see one more reason why the number of calls is raised.

So, lots of panic, lots of fear, lots of misinformation along with the normal misuse of the ambulance service has resulted in many more calls for us, which then results in delays for people actually needing treatment. For example the police were with an assault patient for an hour waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Unfortunately there isn't much that we can do, we can't suddenly make the public realise that they may be capable of looking after themselves without us holding their hands – and we can't magic up new ambulance staff from nowhere.

Except maybe get all the officers (that were road trained) up in Waterloo Control to man resource up trucks and get out on the road – I'm sure that for a few weeks we can do without the assistant staff officer to the staff officer for the diversity department* (or similar) and that they might be more use on the road at the moment.


*I have no idea if this is a genuine position, although it sounds about right – I couldn't tell you how many levels of management there are between me and my boss, nor all the 'performance improvement' staff that float around up there in Waterloo.

18 thoughts on “Pig Death Flu Apocalypse Virus”

  1. I suppose it's because masks are great for keeping stuff in, so they'll still be used in the operating theatre. Not so good for keeping stuff out, especially when worn for hours, getting damp and dirty …

  2. As one of the allocators who sends TR and other colleagues to calls, I have to say that two things are annoyng us: 1. People who “self diagnose” themselves with “Swine Flu”, and 2. GPs who – incredibly – are actually telling people whom they suspect of having the virus to “dial 999 for an ambulance”.Nether are helping at all.

  3. Sounds like all the fuss has been overblown Tom. As you rightly point out, the mortality rate for 'swine flu' seems about the same, or even slightly less than common or garden influenza.We've had a couple of cases over here in BC, but nothing like the plagues, alarums and diversions the politico's and media promised.

  4. the thing I love about Swine Flu is the sheer level of panic in normal minded people. This seems to be far more harmful then the reported symptoms of the flue (which i guess is just a unfunny as normal flu) which is not at all deadly to healthy people.

  5. What also doesn't help is that if they mention a key phrase or two, they get a nice fast response – instead of our calltakers being allowed to use some discretion and common sense.(Still if you allowed discretion, then the next time someone dies it'll be in the Sun as '999 left my dad to die' – like the politicians we are being led by the nose by the media)

    ((Yes, I have seen today's 'story' in the Sun, and yes, I will be commenting on it))

  6. If it's that bad already, I dread to think what the autumn/winter will bring for you guys (and gals) at the sharp end. What on earth goes through someone's mind when they hit 999 because they think they've got swine flu? Maybe a massive (and I mean truly gargantuan) public education programme is needed. Instead of whipping up a frenzy, the papers and rolling news channels could be telling people bluntly that 999 is a number for emergencies only. That unless there are serious underlying health issues, calling an ambulance won't get you taken to hospital. It has to be worth a try, surely?

  7. I know everyone is going over the top worrying about a virus that doesn't seem to be any worse than anything else that does the rounds, but I think it's been great practise.I wonder how many of the people that have gone down with it thought they wouldn't be affected for one reason or another.

    If a really deadly pandemic ever happens, we will have a good deal of knowledge to draw on about how things spread, how we cope and what worked and what didn't.

    I know they work these things out on computers but you can't beat a real life trial.

  8. I heard somehwere, possibly a podcast, that more people accross Europe were dying from hiccups and conditions brought on my them than from Swine flu.I don't know who said it or if it is true, but I like it!

  9. Numbers are Fun!More people have died this year already in tragic garden furniture accidents, than from swine flu. More people have been injured by loose or uneven carpets and rugs than have even been diagnosed with swine flu.

  10. Great post – ive been thinking the same things but i couldn't quite put it as eloquently and concisely as you, mine would just be a rant! The figure that really got me was the statement last week that there could be 100,000 swine flu cases a day, sorry but that i just dont accept that this will happen (i hope im right) – if we have that level of infection each day the entire infrastucture of the country would be undermined.

  11. I am currently sat at home with ?swine flu – oh I feel a bit crap al right, but not sick and dying (although I could live without the spikes of temp when the paracetomol runs out). My GP sounded tired and hacked off when I spoke to him. I'm not getting tamiflu etc, as I'm normally fit and well, and I hate taking tablets. I wouldn't be surprised if I just had regular flu….But my work has gone nuts!! they think I'm about to drop dead. Is it my imagination, or are there a) more cases of this out there in London than is widely reported and b) most are v. mild…?

    Love the way the media love a crisis…

  12. Now, about this little pandemic. Here in Virginia, we have had to deal with a spat of swine flu cases. I happen to work for an ambulance company that transports primarily stable patients to and from various appointments, cancer treatment, physical therapy, dialysis, etc. We do get the occasional emergency call and interfacility transfers that require more specialized care en route, but by and large, we are a taxi service that does heavy lifting.After sustaining a shoulder injury and being put on light duty for a couple of days, we got a call to pick up a patient from a local hospital that was being discharged back to the infirmary at a facility that cares for developmentally disabled/cerebral palsy patients. All we were told by Dispatch (i.e. Control) was that the patient had “flu-like symptoms”. We quickly, after this event, deduced that “flu-like symptoms” is code for H1N1 positive.

    This poor kid had a number of issues he had been seen for. He had a medical history as long as my arm which included but was not limited to acute bronchitis, respiratory MRSA, AND was H1N1 positive. Frankly, I think the swine flu diagnosis was likely the least of his problems. Seeing as how I was on light duty and we had a third crewman, I was left behind with the ambulance when we got him to the infirmary to decontaminate the patient compartment. I can relate to your being told that masks really don't do it. We are similarly using masks, gowns (i.e. aprons), and gloves.

    Mind you this was a mere two weeks after we transported a “stable” patient to an appointment with his pulmonary specialist, stayed with him for the visit, and were to return him back to the nursing home, but were rerouted per his doctor for a direct admit to the hospital in a positive pressure isolation room for suspected tuberculosis vs. possible lung cancer. Once again, Dispatch had been less than clear about what we were getting ourselves into and we took less than universal precautions on this case.

    Testing since has shown me to be clear of any possible exposure to TB, or any of the other nasties we've dealt with lately. Whew!

  13. having had the symptoms of swine flu for a few days, i can definitely say it doesn't warrant an ambulance. Its not nice, its not pleasant, but it doesn't make me think i require immediate medical attention

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