Friday, October 30, 2009

Geez Louise, KFL&A Public Health!

I try not to curse, because cursing is vulgar. Of course, there are times when it feels like nothing but the "bad" words will describe how you feel. So "geez louise" is a subdued (and "corny) description of how I feel right now.

Here in Canada, we are blessed by some foresight by our public health officials. After the SARS fiasco, in which the City of Toronto's inadequate response (both inadequate hospital infection control and occupational safety) led to numerous cases spreading within hospitals and resulted in many deaths (including a front-line nurse), the Ontario provincial government and the federal government realized we were not ready for a pandemic flu outbreak. Provincially, public health infrastructure was strengthened. Infection control in acute care (mostly hospitals) improved, but it's still not perfect. Federally, a pandemic plan was created, including pre-purchasing vaccine to a pandemic influenza. Not knowing the vaccine, they obviously didn't actually purchase it, but they entered a contract with a pharmaceutical supplier to guarantee enough vaccines for every Canadian.

That's right, every Canadian has guaranteed access to the vaccine, if he or she wants it.

Every province rolls out the vaccine stockpiles differently. In Ontario, our public health units administer it. In fact, in Ontario we're the only province to get a free flu shot from the public health units every year, so the public health units were set up for this task. This week, priority for this vaccine was given to those with "underlying health conditions", those who are pregnant, young children, and healthcare workers get it this week. Next week, everyone can get it. Since I have asthma, I'm at a higher risk of complications if I get the H1N1 influenza (aka swine flu aka pandemic influenza), so I'm in this group. I showed up to a clinic yesterday at a local church, and was disturbed by the gabillion vehicles parked up and down the road for it. So I left! Today's clinic was from 9am - 9pm, so around 10:30ish, I showed up to a clinic with my mom (who's on chemo) and was told the wait list was 2 hours. She didn't feel she could handle waiting 2 hours in line, so we left. She went back around 3pm when the wait was under an hour. I went back around 7pm and was told they weren't letting people in line so they could close at 9pm. I looked at the line, and it wasn't even half what it had been when it was "two hours". So I didn't get it.

I am upset and the inefficiency. You say you're open until 9pm, then let me get in line at 7pm. Tell me that if I'm not seen by 9pm, I won't get to see a nurse, then let me make the decision whether to get in line and hope for the best or walk away.
(I suspect the healthcare providers are just as frustrated as the patients!)

I might try going tomorrow, but I'm not sure. It's just frustrating, because you can't get these vaccines anywhere but these clinics! Doctors' offices can't give them out yet, and my doctor has opted not to give out the vaccine for administrative reasons. This is very inefficient.

To KFL&A Public Health (formerly known as KFL&A Health Unit): please evaluate your system of organization. It doesn't work. At 10:30am, your line was 2 hours and went to the "information desk". At 3pm, the wait was under an hour. I was told at 5:30, the line was 4.5 hours. Then when I returned at 7pm, it looked less than 2 hours, by what I could tell. So that long line was a temporary blip (or an over-estimation). Why couldn't I get my vaccination at 7pm? You advertised you'd be there until 9pm! And clearly, by the line length, you didn't have a wait of 2 hours at 7pm. I don't understand your system.


  1. good thing you don't live in this area- you'd be more frustrated... no clinics in peel are open yesterday, today and tomorrow, and last week lines were 7-9hours... a friend of mine waited for 7 hours with her severely asthmatic 3 year old!!

  2. omg sounds very frustrating! good luck! you definitely don't want to get it. Jen & I both had/have (Jen gave it to me and she's almost all better now....i'm still in the thick of it) it and Jen has asthma. sending u good thoughts & wishes of luck!

  3. So frustrating Krista!! Here in Toronto, it's one big clusterF*$K! I hear in Sault St. Marie and other regions, they've implemented an appointment system. I think that's the only way to go. Especially since they know ahead of time how many vaccines they have on hand. The last thing at risk people need is to wait for hours in close quarters...stressing out their immune systems.

  4. Wow, Jane & Pro 'Maid: I would be frustrated in your areas. I didn't realize it wasn't that bad here. Although, the news is saying my area is a "hotbed" of flu activity. It's very active here, apparently.

    And Alternative: I may have had it in the spring. I had a flu that triggered my asthma in May, which was when "round 1" was in its height. However, it could have been something else. Just in case I didn't have it already, I want the vaccine. I've heard it's horrible. I hope you both feel better soon!

  5. Yikes. This all sounds like a total mess!! And total frustration!!
    I'm not trying to get into a political discussion here at all - I would just like to say that I am so glad that we still have private healthcare here in the US.

    The H1N1 vaccines are hitting here, and any doctors office or hospital can give them out - but they are advised to give them out to the higher risk patients first. And the elderly (those over 65) are included in our higher risk. But, there hasn't been crazy lines like this. I imagine that in the next year or so, the H1N1 vaccine will be as easily accessible as the regular flu shot.

    And regular flu shots?? Any doctors office, hospital, or even your local pharmacy can give them out! And I think they're like $4 or so. We have plenty of those, and you can get them every year if you want (or not). (I don't understand why you guys in Canada can't have them every year??)

    We've had quite a few cases in our area (Dallas/Fort Worth Texas) of the H1N1, but I'm not sure how bad it is in comparison to other areas. A co-worker's son got it about a month ago. It seems like most who get it have a high fever for a day or two, feel really bad for that day or two, and then are fine within a few days. That's how his illness ran, too. He was out on Tuesday, and back on Friday.

    I have never had a flu shot... no one believes me when I tell them this, but it's true. I am not very good with needles. Not that I'm a baby - I don't even get that nervous - but I pass out very easily. So, since I don't work in a high risk environment, or have children, I've chosen not to get one. I think I had the flu about 10 years ago, but I haven't been really really sick like that since. I have decided that once I have children, I will get a shot for them, but not this year.