Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Exposures (part 2, Conclusion)

 If you haven't read part 1 first, it should be found directly below this one, or you can read it HERE. I won't give a re-cap, go read the first post before picking it up here.
 So my Exposure Control Officer (ECO) is on the phone with the Hospital where we have just sent, 20 minutes prior, the source patient of my potential exposure. The Chief and myself are standing next to him as he talks on the phone.
ECO: Hi this is Charlie, I am the ECO at Smallville Fire Rescue. I need to report a possible exposure from a patient that is currently in your E/D. We brought her in from a PIAA a little while ago. We would like to know if the patient has anything that should concern the responder who got a shot of blood and spit in his eyes from this patient.
 Now we can't hear the other side of the conversation, so just bear with me here.
He listens a bit.
ECO: No, I'm sorry that won't work, can I speak to the Charge Nurse please?
He listens.
ECO: That's not how this works. I don't want her medical records, I just want to know that she's negative for communicable diseases, and if not, how we can protect our man here.
He listens.
ECO: Sorry, but that is unacceptable. OK, I'll have to take this up the ladder. We'll be in touch.
He hangs up.
 We look at him, he looks at us. "She said "no". "No?" I asked, "What does that mean? Does it mean she's clean and I'm ok?"
 "No" Said the ECO," it means they won't give us the information. They say it's confidential."
 I waste no time in throwing myself into a tirade. The Chief calmly says "Give me that phone and dial the number again."
 CHIEF: Hi, This is Chief Jones of Smallville Fire. One of my members had an exposure tonight and we are trying to find out if he has anything to worry about. My ECO just called and was told that the information was confidential. I'm sure that was an error, the law allows....
He got cut off in mid sentence and is listening.
CHIEF: Uh huh, Well, that's just not gonna fly. Could I please speak with the attending Physician? Yes, I will wait as long as I need to.
 CHIEF: Yes! hello Doctor. I know you're really busy so I'll be direct. Could you just let us know what you get back on the blood tests from that PIAA patient so that my man here can stop worrying, or get treatment for his exposure?
CHIEF: Yes sir, I understand, but there must be a way the we can...
 CHIEF: But how can anyone expect us to work this way? Surely there must be a way to....
CHIEF: OK Doc, thanks. We'll try that.
 Hangs up.
 "Well, apparently the law was changed and they can no longer give that information out. They are afraid of getting sued.  We are going to have to find a work around. In the meantime, the Doc says you "probably" don't have anything to worry about."
""PROBABLY!?"  "What the HELL is that supposed to mean!" I ask politely.
 My ECO is livid "WHAT! This is bullshit!" "I'll get on the phone tomorrow and call the administrator, we'll get this fixed."

So the days worked on into weeks and nothing came back through official channels. I continued to worry, but
other things filled my mind as time went on. After 3 weeks I ran into and assitant Chief in the deli. We chatted for a bit and as we parted he said "Hey, you DID get the word on that exposure thing right?" I informed him that I had indeed not heard anything and was still concerned about it. He walked over to lower his voice and said "hey, you're good man, she was clean, I got the info from  nurse friend at the Hospital." I was furious. "You might have given me  a phone call with that little tidbit, y'know." "Yeah" He said, "sorry, well see ya round".
 So this is how we handle exposures in the 21st century in small town in my State.
 In the years since, the laws have been 'fixed' and this should no longer occur, but we haven't had the opportunity to test the system.... yet.
 The next time you blow off the PPE, think about my experience and please reconsider.
Be Safe.

1 comment:

  1. urgh that's awful!!! I've thankfully never had an exposure but I've seen two co workers go through it. scary enough when you're able to quickly verify that there is nothing there. Can't imangine waiting 3 weeks and then only hear via "word of mouth"

    *shakes head*