Thursday, June 12, 2003

SARS: View from a Hospital in Toronto

This is a letter from a surgeon in Toronto about SARS: the utlimate hospital hazard:
SARS is an unusual illness. It is a hospital illness. In Toronto, the only place you are going to get it is when you step into a hospital, or if you step into the bedroom of someone who just came home from hospital. This illness specifically attacks the health care system. Virtually all cases are Health Care workers, patients admitted for another illness or visitors of patients.
SARS is much more than a bad case of the flu.
This illness is severe. We have for example 2 health care workers in their early 30's who've been on ventilator for up to 8 weeks. Both of them at times have required inotropic support. It is nothing short of a miracle that they are still alive. Knowing that this can happen to a 31 year old makes a 47 year old surgeon a little nervous.
A short reminder of some of the simplist -- and most easily overlooked -- infection control techniques -- and a tribute to the forgotten, but vitally important floor cleaners and other mainenance an custodial personnel:
I'll admit that in the past I didn't always wash my hands between patient encounters. If there was no internal exam and it was just a quick listen to the lungs and look at a clean wound..... Well the first thing you should learn is wash your hands frequently and well. I use so much of those alcohol based washes, I smell like a drunk. I also go out of my way to be nice to the floor cleaners. They are the people who are most key to ending this outbreak.
But on a brighter note:
I encourage you to visit Toronto. The Canadian dollar is cheap. The hotels are empty and the streets are safe. Even the waiters in fancy restaurants are nice now that they are starving for business. As long as you don't develop a perforated ulcer and require hospitalization you won't get SARS.