H1N1 Policy On The Maternity Ward Of The Ottawa General Hospital Sucks

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My very pregnant girlfriend has the flu. Late Tuesday night she had a fever of over 101F long enough the nurses, dressed in long, yellow, disposable plastic jackets and wearing face-shields, moved her from her “home care” room to a single room where they’ve quarantined her.

I wasn’t there Wednesday, because I couldn’t find a ride to Ottawa. When I was with her on Monday she complained of back pain and a general feeling of discomfort. Both of which are common problems but, after dinner as I was leaving, she did tell me it was bad enough she would ask for a shot of pain reliever. Which was new.

My girlfriend hates needles. I’d say it’s a borderline phobia. So for her to ask for one would take something out of the ordinary. She has also been exceptionally careful, for the sake of the pregnancy, to not take anything remotely or potentially harmful into her body. I found out in August she hadn’t even been taking Tylenol because she thought it might harm the kid. I had to get a doctor to explain to her about managing her pain with over the counter pain killers.

The shot she was asking for on Monday night is safe for pregnant women, they just don’t like giving it out for every ache and pain.

They also took blood and saliva samples from her on Wednesday, to see if she has H1N1, but the test result won’t be back until Friday. The nurses told her she wasn’t exhibiting any of the H1N1 symptoms, and her fever did start to drop around noon today. But the discomfort, stuffed nose and other problems are still there.

And they’ve started her back up on Tamiflu. They had her on it three weeks ago because her son had a prolonged flu experience. He tested negative for H1N1.

On Wednesday she mostly just slept. Which is good.


Here’s what’s not good… I’ve become very frustrated with how the Ottawa General Hospital has been treating my girlfriend.

The H1N1 shot, in Canada, has been available for almost three weeks for people who fit into the “high risk” category. At the top of the list is pregnant women. So you’d think a pregnant woman, with a high risk pregnancy and living on the maternity ward of a major hospital would be one of the first in line.

But not only has she not received a shot, until very recently neither had any of the maternity ward staff… because, individually, they weren’t considered “high risk”.

The hospital also, for the first two weeks my girlfriend was on the ward, did not seem to have a plan as to what to do with women staying on the maternity ward who had “flu-like symptoms”. Nor did there seem to be any plans on what to do with people who were obviously sick — sneezing, coughing, stuffy head — visiting women on the maternity ward.

There weren’t lines of flu soaked miscreants wandering the halls, wiping their snot on the doorknobs or coughing in the faces of newborns, but there were sick people walking around. There were groups of excited people filling rooms, people to whom Purell was not a priority.

And it wasn’t until this past weekend when the rules finally changed… or were created, so that only the “primary partner” could visit a woman on the maternity ward.

H1N1 shots have been available in public clinics for three weeks, maybe more. Pregnant women have been told it’s safe to receive the vaccine. In fact, they’ve been highly encourage to seek it out. But when I asked my girlfriend’s doctors — two of them — they told her the vaccine was unavailable because the hospital was waiting for a special vaccine, created specifically for pregnant women.

Even though both vaccines, according to both Health Canada and the World Health Organization, were proven to be safe for pregnant women.

That was last week, and two weeks ago. But on Halloween weekend, the Ottawa General Hospital opened an H1N1 vaccine clinic in their cafeteria, specifically for their employees. Except many employees brought their families, who were also inoculated.

Including pregnant women… using the same vaccine my girlfriend’s doctors claimed was unsafe for her to receive.


“We knew … that we were probably going to be confronted with situations of people showing up at the door of our clinic, not only with themselves but with their family members,” said Nicolas Ruszkowski, The Ottawa Hospital’s vice-president of communications and outreach.

“The ethical question you ask yourself is: Do we turn them away or do we take them? And the ethical decision that we made was we’re not going to turn anybody away as long as we know that we’re covering our staff.”

Ruszkowski said he doesn’t know how many of the 8,495 people who got their pandemic flu shot over the weekend were relatives of hospital staffers.


The story broke on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen on Monday morning. Which was when the Ottawa General Hospital changed its vaccine clinic policy, so that anyone wanting a shot had to produce an employee card.

Later that Monday, I asked another of my girlfriend’s doctors about the shot. My girlfriend had plans for a 24-hour pass at the time so she could be at her son’s birthday. We were told to take the opportunity to stand in line at a clinic near our hometown.

…the doctor’s recommendation was for my girlfriend to stand in line, outside a clinic for up to four hours to receive a shot which, eight floors down, was being given out at that very moment.

My girlfriend is under strict doctors orders — including that doctors orders — not to drive, stand for long periods of time, or be outside for more than fifteen minutes. But it’s okay to stand in line outside for four hours. For a shot being given away to employees of the Ottawa General Hospital, a wheelchair ride away.

Who’s in charge of these fucking things?

Because now, on Thursday, the “pregnant woman safe vaccine” will finally be available to women on the maternity ward. But my girlfriend won’t be able to take it, because one of the reasons people can be turned away from receiving the shot… drum roll please:

…is if they have the flu, or flu-like symptoms.

Which my girlfriend has. She probably has the flu. My girlfriend — who, for three weeks, has been living on a maternity ward which had no obvious policy preventing people with the flu from walking onto the ward — probably has the flu.

In fact, just over a week ago — and well into the H1N1 thing — a new mother on the maternity had flu-like symptoms, and so did the baby’s father, who kept walking up and down the hall past my girlfriends room. My girlfriend had to ask a nurse to make sure he, and the mother, wore surgical masks.

You know… to follow the fucking procedures.

Seriously… who the fuck is in charge of this shit?




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in crazy people with no pants, Family, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Ottawa, Pregnancy. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to H1N1 Policy On The Maternity Ward Of The Ottawa General Hospital Sucks

  1. thordora says:

    Jesus H….our health departments can’t get anything right can they? I would think, and encourgage that the people who are high risk, and especially IN the hospital, would have it before even my 6 year old, who got done last week.

    Absolutely unacceptable. And this bullshit of bring the family? No. Not cool. Make sure the risk groups are safe, and THEN move on. I felt bad because I wanted to bring Rosalyn to the clinic at Vivian’s school, something I could have done as she’s in the 6mths-5years risk group. I didn’t, because they had vaccines for the school groups, period.


  2. bats0711 says:

    I personally think that if you are high risk pregnancy she should have received that shot first thing when it came out a few weeks ago, all women on that ward should have.
    I’m in the US and trust me, our procedures for the H1N1 are just a big cluster fuck also.

  3. bats0711 says:

    Oh and forgot to say, she is absolutely adorable.

  4. Gabriel... says:

    My girlfriend is totally adorable.

    The good news is the hospital will keep her dose of the H1N1 vaccine available until she’s better… the gooder news is she’s all better. They’re just keeping her in the quarantine room for another day, maybe two, just to make sure but she’s gone 24 hours without a fever.

    They want her to take the Tamiflu for another five days, and her next ultrasound appointment is on Tuesday… which, if it goes really, really well, could mean she’ll be coming home next week. I don’t know for how long, but I think it’d be good for her to have a break from the hospital for at least a few days.

  5. melanie says:

    Good news, good news. Yay you! Keep a stiff upper lip, you’re almost there.

  6. bats0711 says:

    Are they going to send her home with a wheel chair so that way you can push her around instead of her walking around?

  7. Gabriel... says:

    Quick Update: my girlfriend tested positive for H1N1, and will be in quarantine until Wednesday.

    Hi bats… no wheelchair. While she’s home she’ll basically be housebound. A couple of months ago she was in the hospital for a week, and when she came home she tried walking short distances, but the effort left her in a lot of pain. I’m hoping she has learnt from past experiences.

    She’s making promises, hopefully she’ll stick to them this time.

  8. Kitty says:

    Can’t believe they would not go up to her floor to give her the vaccine when they were giving them out.

    Preggers women are at the top of the list, she should have gotten hers before the health care workers got theirs.

    Hope all turns out well. Another week down.

  9. Astrid says:

    OMG, that (former?) policy sounds like they’re just waiting for pregnant, high-risk women to contract H1N1. I think pregnant women in hospital (they’re there for a reason!) should be among the first to receive a vaccine, and staff should be advised to get the vaccine simply because they work with sick patients. That’s the policy here (of cours eyou can’t force nurses to ge tthe vaccine but they are advised to take it).

    We have the same thinghere with people waiting in lines fo rhours to get the shot. But then again the liens may also be that long because some doctors will vaccinate people not int he high-risk groups.

  10. Hon, as you know, Dr. PA is not really a M.D., but the vaccine should be fine. However, is she still taking the Tamiflu?

    If so…erm…might want to stop that?


  11. Yo is Me says:

    our hospital is giving out both flu shots to the employees and physicians. in the states, there will be public clinics that will give them out… people in high risk categories will get them first… diabetes, pregnancy, etc.

    keep washing your hands and covering your sneezles.

  12. PainInTheNeck says:

    How in the heck did she get H1n1 in the hospital???

    ….and with that craziness about the vaccine…….there’s your free health care for you!

  13. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks Yo, PatAnon, Astrid (welcome) and Kitty, for your comments. We’re out of the hospital now, her case of H1N1 turned out to be extremely mild. Over the week the hospital actually implemented procedures to correct a lot of the things I thought were wrong.

    PA: the doctors all said it was safe for her and the baby to receive Tamiflu. So far so good anyway.

    Now… PITN, WTF? You’re criticizing a system which just allowed my girlfriend to stay on the maternity ward for a MONTH, being treated three times daily by a team of doctors, with nurses on call 24/7, receiving tests and counselling, all of it done without a single credit card or request for payment.

    …this is a system which gives our kid — born healthy, or with complications — a significantly better chance of surviving than if he were borne in your country. Again, what the fuck?

    People get sick in hospitals, I know it must be a shock, but it happens. In fact close to 200,000 people die every year in American hospitals thanks to “[p]reventable medical mistakes and infections…”.

    Seriously, you’re a troll, and a boring one at that. Fuck off.

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