June 20, 2019

Dr Katharine See: Winter is here

Welcome to winter!

The hospital has been busier than ever in the last few weeks, consistently seeing over 300 presentations to the emergency department each day.

While the flu season is yet to be declared, the hospital is seeing high numbers of confirmed influenza cases. Almost 20,000 cases of flu have been reported so far this year compared to 2,500 in the same period in 2018. Many of these patients are very unwell. Having looked after a number of them myself in the last few weeks, it serves as a timely reminder as to the importance of protecting ourselves and our families from the flu.

We all know that the best way to protect ourselves from flu is by being vaccinated. It’s excellent to see that the large majority of staff have had their fluvax, but we still have a way to go to reach our target of 90% vaccination. For staff who are unable or unwilling to have the fluvax, to protect them from exposure to flu, they will be required to wear a mask to reduce their risk of contracting it.

While this might seem like a drastic move, minimising the transmission of flu amongst our staff is a high priority for Northern Health.

As someone who diligently had their fluvax on the first day of our vaccination campaign, it was a shock for me to find myself with a high fever and a cough four weeks later. I had been around several patients who had been unwell with flu but had always carefully used a gown, gloves and a mask, as well as religiously using Avagard to clean my hands. Just like I would isolate a patient while waiting for their flu swab result to return, I isolated myself to protect my patients and team in case I was contagious.

While vaccination is the best protection, it isn’t perfect and so it is vital that we use all of the infection prevention measures available to us.

As caring healthcare workers, when we find ourselves unwell, we often don’t want to take enough time off to recover for fear that we are increasing the workload for our colleagues, but this is really the best possible thing we can do so as not to infect our friends and co-workers.

Finally, when it’s really busy and everyone is under the pump, it’s easy to forget to be kind to each other. Working together as a unified team is the only way we will all get through what is shaping up to be a busy and challenging winter.

Take care of yourselves,

Dr Katharine See

Director, Respiratory Medicine