16 September 2009

Swine Flu or Not, a Necessary Ordeal?

Swine flu doesn't scare me much. It's nothing more than a pretty bad flu with more severe symptoms. The chance of death isn't as big as the media makes it out to be, and with the right precautions and action taken, along with some common sense, it should come and go with no issues.

What scares me isn't Swine Flu; it's how we're dealing with it here. We're putting our health and lives in the hands of the Ministry of Health, who keep saying they have everything under control. Do they? Do they, really?

I haven't experienced anything first hand, so i'm copying a letter from a dear friend whose had that experience, hoping it might increase awareness for what's going on.



One cannot appreciate the severity of the situation until faced with the reality of it in the emergency room. For the past few months we have been watching the news on TV from the comfort and luxury of our homes and taking it for granted that the Health Officials have got it under control. Little we knew that the situation was far beyond control!

5 days ago, Ali, our baby boy of 12 months suddenly got high fever, we immediately took him in to a private hospital’s emergency section where they performed some test and confirmed “viral infection”, prescribed some medicine including Tami Flu and sent us home.

The symptoms only got worse the next day and we again went rushing to the same hospital. This time, they examined our baby and prescribed anti-biotic and sent us home again.

Things did not get any better that evening, when our baby’s fever did not come down and this time, he was starting to vomit. We decided enough was enough, and rushed him to the emergency at the Salmaniya Hospital where he was examined and put on IV fluids, and transferred by ambulance to Kanoo Medical Center as a “suspect” case of swine flu.
In the span of a few hours of us being there at Salmaniya, there must have been dozens and dozens of walk-in cases of children with exactly the same symptoms as our baby. It was indeed an outbreak; there was no doubt about it. Whether confirmed cases or not, no one could tell because the Ministry had earlier issued instructions to all to stop testing for H1N1 and immediately start the Tami Flu treatment.

Now here’s where our cry-out for concern comes in.

Upon arriving at Kanoo Center, we noticed that there was no senior in-charge of the whole facility and were told that doctors were not available as they were all too busy at Salmaniya. The facilities may have been new, but the services and support to maintain an acceptable level of competence and hygiene was nowhere to be seen.

Apart from the fact that we did not see the General Consultant assigned to our boy show his face through-out our stay there, he never showed up even after repeated requests by us to see him, which is legally our right.

The cleaning staff was not available when required; it took them 2 days to even replace the bed sheets which were soiled from vomiting. The nurses were helpless without up to date directives from seniors who were nowhere to be found.

The only time a pediatrician showed up was on the 3rd day where we shortly discovered was an intern junior with no senior guidance or shadow. She kept asking the nurses about our boy’s case and could not even give us a straight forward answer when we asked her important questions about our boy’s condition. She was quick to make an exit after feeling a little under the spotlight and never showed up again.

What concerned us the most was how patients were being brought in to the center as “suspect” cases but not being given the serious consideration that comes with the “title”?

Adult “suspect case” patients were brought in with obvious respiratory problems, and put in the same room within only a meter from our boy... only to be tested a day later to confirm their diseases. How could that be justified in a situation where a serious out-break is present which is considered to be more dangerous to children below the age of 5 than adults?

Baby cribs were not even available so mother and baby had to share a bed the whole time while being on IV drip lines throughout.

While on medication, our boy developed other symptoms such as rashes, dipping of the body temperature and yellowish skin tone, and when we put our concerns forward to the nurses, they could not diagnose and no doctor was available to address these concerns.
Can you imagine the state we were in the whole time? NOT KNOWING anything, not being able to speak to a doctor who can answer the simplest questions we had such as “what is wrong with our boy?” or “is this normal?”

When a doctor came to visit on the 4th day, and decided baby Ali needed to have a swab test done for H1N1, knowing very well that the results may take up to 24 hours to come out, Ali was ordered to be discharged the nest morning and no instructions were given to anyone of us as to what to do next! We are yet to get the results, and have not been put on any preventative medication!

My question to the Ministry of Health is:

If the Ministry are under-staffed as we have witnessed “beyond any reasonable doubt” and cannot handle such situations. Then why quickly step up and take complete charge of this situation leaving the general public in limbo as to what to do, where to go and how to go about it?

There are so many private hospitals and clinics in Bahrain that are at this moment in time not authorized to admit or even diagnose suspect cases. What are those hospitals with their luxurious facilities and staff doing right now? Why are they being sidelined when there are obvious shortages at the Ministry facilities?

It is easy to mimic other countries at times of urgency, but do we have the resources, competence and experience to deal with it?

From first-hand experience, I can now say NO! We are far from being able to handle, manage and control a pandemic of any kind. And this should concern every resident of Bahrain that has the right to ask “why?”

Ahmed Baqer


Faris said...

wow. very moving and upsetting. Salamat to your son Ahmed. May he have a swift recovery.

omtutu said...

That is infuriating!!! I have thought about this time and time again. I have heard of many stories about doctors "mistakes" causing even bigger problems and have dealt with this first hand, and now with the swine flu. it is even more discomforting to think that should we get infected, there might not be the proper and timely treatment for it.

Thanks for sharing that and I do hope that Ahmeds son gets better. My prayers are with him and his family.