What Would You Do If You Suspect Swine Flu in Kuwait?

As a precaution to the Swine Flu virus that started spreading recently, most countries now have standard measures for people crossing their borders into the country, and I have to say I was a bit relieved to know Kuwait has this kind of thermal Airport scan as I heard, and then I was handed this paper when I picked my housemaid from the office.

Health Surveillance Card

50 KD (approx $173) and/or 1 month of prison for failing to do the test in 72 hours. I thought that is tough, but still fair compared to public benefit and health. So what do we do? We take her to the clinic, like a good American.. err I mean Kuwaiti! Good to know Kuwait do have standard measures against this Swine Flu thing after all isn’t it? Or do they?

It all started last night when I was on my way out with a dear friend and the phone rang at about 7:45 PM. My wife told me in a shocked voice they found fever in my housemaid when she went to do the test in one of the below listed so called Preventive Health Centers.

Preventive Health Centers list in Kuwait

She told me her body temperature was 37.9 and they immediately isolated her, started cleaning the area, and said they suspect swine flu, and the ambulance must pick her up to the Contagious Diseases Hospital! (we’ll just call it CDH from now onwards). Now I’m very far away from being a Dr. but I didn’t see 37.9 as that serious. After a long trip into a different climate with little food on the way, it’s bound to happen to anyone. I asked her to make sure what they intend to do and call me back. Two consecutive calls, it was serious. My day with my friend was officially over as we just started to see the Avenues. I was so embarrassed, and to his credit, he took it in a very high spirit.

So back to my car, drive to the clinic, I saw the ambulance waiting out there. I went in and saw my wife frightened as the maid was close to my kid in the car drive. She said housemaid is isolated, ambulance was here for like 10 minutes and still did not take the maid to the hospital. It was obvious, they didn’t know what to do. They are all panicked, and clueless. When we inquired, the Dr. at the clinic shocked me saying CDH would not take her because serious flu should be above 38 degrees. I was like “What? it’s just 0.1 degree difference, and if there is a chance, they should do necessary checking to avoid spread of the disease”. I asked the Dr. at the clinic specifically whether they can do further testing to make sure, and the Dr. replied with clear No.

So why would you jail and fine me unless I do the test in 72 hours, if you don’t know what to do about it? Why wouldn’t CDH accept the case? Is it that they are clueless as well? Is it because they don’t see it serious? But shouldn’t they examine the case before they decide? Logically yes if the clinic has concerns, but the ambulance can’t take the patient to CDH without their approval it seems, and they’re not willing to give that approval! The ambulance guy trying to get out of it was suggesting I take her instead!. If the whole Ministry of Health doesn’t know what to do with the case, why should I bare the risk? I didn’t seriously think she has Swine Flu, as I don’t recall Indonesian confirmed cases, but even if, I’m not willing to take the one in a billion chance and risk my family, and not only that, but public’s health. If there is some slightest doubt, just take her in the ambulance and do the necessary checking, that’s all! I told my wife then to leave as it was obviously taking too long. After much deliberation, arguing, un-answered calls to head of the clinic, the ambulance driver suggested I take the papers only to the CDH and try to take it up with them. Either let them sign-approve it, or sign deny of accepting the case. It was obvious the guy wants to get out of it I told him that, but again, I didn’t have many options, and I wasn’t gonna let this story ends up here.

So I took the clinic admission guy’s mobile number and ambulance number. Ofcourse when you desperately need your phone in such days, battery always runs out. I saw the battery low message as I was taking their numbers, closed all unnecessary apps, and drove all the way to CDH. Going inside a quite night shift, there were barely one or two waiting outside, I spoke to the Drs and they quickly recalled the problem and said it’s not serious I tried convincing him to give it a check, but he declined to admission a case that does not need to. He then struck me saying “The Dr. at the clinic is too scared to examine the patient. How can she say that?”. I showed the Dr. the examination papers from the clinic, but I could see a true part of his story. My wife later on told me the Dr. initially did nothing but temperature test before freaking out. So I called the clinic back, and the guy asked me for signature of declining to take the case. I told the Dr. that and he said he can’t sign anything before examining the case! “But you just refused to accept her” I explained. The Dr. said it’s ok to check up on her , but was so confused when I told him the ambulance wouldn’t drive her in without their approval. He said this is new, and out of logic. A talk to the administration department there and the head also found it silly and didn’t know about such a thing. A guy setting on the couch explained the case, and the right to refuse accepting any case to avoid jam on the hospital.

OK, but this, even with the slightest of chance, could be serious according to the clinic. So why don’t you just do the necessary checking? Some discussion went on, and the head and Dr. both said they would be happy to accept the case, and I can tell the ambulance that. I drove quickly back the clinic, only to find out the ambulance has already left. I went into the admission room, and as the guy was busy with his work, he asked me to call the ambulance. So there it started to get funny as I was calling in on ambulance introducing my self as the clinic at times to get things done. I told them it’s all clear, you can send in the ambulance, I gave him the HDC direct line to call and confirm, and I ended up giving my personal mobile number as well. All for the good of the country right?

More than 30 minutes must’ve passed while I was at the clinic, chatting with the nice guys in the room, laughing also at how many people want to get away with the medicine without paying the 1 KD, or the amount of people who just come with a civil ID number in mind and want to go in! Eventually, the ambulance arrived, I spoke to them and they were still inquiring whether I’m 100% positive HDC would accept the case. I was like saying to my self “Helloooo… your guys called HDC directly! No don’t thank me, it was my job to drive there, do some negotiations, get their direct number to you to call and make sure. Any time!” I told him the ambulance already had the green light from HDC and he can call to make sure again. The new shift Dr took them aside to talk to them, not knowing I am the housemaid sponsor. I approached and introduced my self, and assured him they’re ok to accept her for checking. Ambulance driver calls his guys again for one last check. OK! We’re off to Mars? No just HDC. Let’s go!

At about the same time, my wife called:

Wife: Clinic called and they’re upset housemaid is still just sitting there, when are we gonna take her out.

Me: What? The ambulance is already here for 10 minutes, they’re taking her out now.

Wife: No, they say they can’t reach you and they called me, and I don’t know where you are.

Me: I’m right here at the clinic for more than half and hour! I’ve been talking to them, arranging for the ambulance and all. What’s this all about? Anyways, they’re about to take her out. Limme hangup and see what they do. Bye!

I went outside and after a while the ambulance guys were almost ready and asked ME to bring the patient. I went inside to tell the Dr. we’re getting her out, as I heard the nurse speaking of this sponsor who just disappeared, left a patient, and his wife doesn’t know where he is!

Me: Excuse me, any chance you’re talking about me?

Nurse: Are you the sponsor of the housemaid?

Me: YES! And I’ve been here for like an hour now at the admission, arranging for the ambulance and all.

Nurse (smiling): Ohhh OK, I’m sorry then!

By that time it was close to 11 PM already, and I thought how would a complete stranger who’s in a new country for her second day only feel alone in a clinic for 2 hours all by her self! She was scared to death crying, and I don’t blame her. I told her it’s OK, they are just going to make some checking on her in a hospital, but as she saw the ambulance I can feel her heart stopping for a second.

I drove behind the ambulance, or at least I tried as fast I can. But these guys can really win the Formula 1 with this car and way of driving. Was the case too urgent I wonder? My Dr. friend, not knowing anything about this story yet, called during the chase, and by that time, I really couldn’t hold my laughs any longer! We laughed hysterically as I saw the lights of the ambulance fade out of my sight, and the siren sounds could no longer be heard.

When I reached there, I could see the ambulance still parking (Good, I can still catch a piece of the action!). I went inside and the maid was behind curtains taking examination. Her body temperature was already a little bit lower, panic among everyone was lower, and facts were becoming more clear. HDC would have a point to not take anybody with a bit of high temperature, especially when the Dr. at the clinic refuses to do proper examination on the case. Drs in the clinic are completely clueless also about the virus, don’t know how to diagnose one, what to do when to find one, and where to send the patient to if proven to be a possible infection. Still though, in such a case and for the public good, I said it would be wise for HDC to take the case for further checking, just to be safe. The Dr’s argument that there are no recorded cases in Indonedia did not really convince me, as there is always a first time. And yes, this one in a 230 million case could be the first one. Or could be one of those…

H1N1 in Indonesia

The point is, we don’t gamble on public health. I understand the media exaggeration of the matter, and how very unlikely this case is to test positive, but if there is the smallest tiny little chance of this danger, then we better be ready!

As the Dr. at HDC was explaining the over-hyped virus, how he wasn’t even wearing a mask and it’s a shame Drs at the clinic were too afraid to handle it, and how I should calm down, not worry too much, when I was actually smiling and laughing, the maid’s tests were done, she was cleared to go with just some medicine prescription. But when she took the yellow hospital dress she was wearing off, the other Dr in the room was pissed off and wanted her to take it inside the infected clothes room, as he did not want to handle it him self. I laughed here saying “Well here you go. Here is a Dr in your room and he’s not willing to handle it!”

The poor girl was dying when we went into the car, looking for old bottles of water under the seats from thirst. Luckily there were open restaurants just nearby to grab her a quick bite and go home. By the time we reached, it was about 1 AM already. That’s more than 5 hours of going back and forth, arguing and debating about what should be the clinic’s job.

It was an awkward, action-filled night. I did have my laughs really, but I also grew some worries. Shall a real case come, or should a person be suspicious of the disease, what should he do? Where should he go? Last night raised several questions, and made several facts clear:

1- There is absolutely no medical staff training, education or any real precaution measures to the new virus in Kuwait.

2- Kuwait demands any new comer to do the Swine Flu check within 72 hours, or face 50 KD fine and/or 1 month of jail time. Yet, there is no procedure at all for this Swine Flu check. All the clinic knows about the disease is to test body temperature, which is not an adequate measure.

3- The clinics and HDC are not in real full understanding and agreement about the cases that needs to be sent, and the protocol followed to accept the case.

4- It would seem this whole Swine Flu check is just to show the public Ministry of Health really did take their measures, but they did not.

5- You can’t race an ambulance car!

This early morning the clinic called again to check on the case updates. I couldn’t really care to tell a lot about the case but that it was over.

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  • Anonymous

    run away

  • http://intlxpatr.wordpress.com/ Intlxpatr

    I didn’t go to the clinic. I came in from Germany, got one of those cards, and I know what a hell hole the clinics are . . . I avoid them like umm. . . err. . . the plague! I was betting that no-one is entering all that data into computers and tracking incoming passengers.

    You did the right thing, taking your maid. You did the right thing writing up the outcome - a policy with no teeth in it doesn’t protect anyone from anything. And Drs/ afraid of the patients! LLOOLL or you’ll cry.

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    Intlxpatr: Yeah, you probably can get away. But she has to get medical test for stay permit, and they might ask for it. Otherwise YES, there was no data entry at all!

    Heck, the Dr signed it then realized it has no patient info!

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  • http://macaholiq8.blogspot.com MacaholiQ8

    Whoa! Now that’s Hollywood material!!

    Though on a more serious note you never know they (MOH) might actually compel those measures on you when you take her for her permit.

    You’d be so out of fortune. Allah e3enik. :/

  • http://nicoleb.org/b2/ Nicole

    I didn’t expect anything else from Kuwait.

    *shakes head*

  • MS

    Welcome to Kuwait :)

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    MacaholiQ8: Yeah I know. Funny after I finished this marathon and was on way home, I realized no one signed my papers yet and went back. I thought if I don’t, they would fine me 50 KD for my carelessness! Now that would be a Hollywood ending! Or Tash Ma Tash as well

    Nicole: You didn’t? Come on, you should see Saudi Arabia ;)

    MS: Thanks :(

  • maryam

    kinda reminded me of our maid case, they had me run around and the Dr. got upset because when asked about who’s with her, I told him me, he told me where’s your dad!!! em3afan!

    The clinic Dr, gave her medicine he shouldn’t have, kila malhom khilq, and make things worse!

    Good thing you were laughing ;D

    btw you closed all unnecessary apps, what necessary apps you left open ;P LOL

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    maryam: Yeah, MOG sucks most of the time. I just failed to get my kid after two months wait into government minor surgery and did it in private in just 2 days!

    I left the browser, coz I wanted to tweet. This was important :P. I closed Bluetooth as I forgot it open, and the Wireless service.