THE NEW (NEW) PADI MEDICAL FORM
Hot off the press (well, it's been out for a week but I found out last night on the Course Director grapevine - thanks Bettie!)
The divers medical questionnaire has finally been sorted out and questions relating directly to COVID have been removed.
In this little article, I'm going to point out the main differences and explain why it's good news for divers and dive centres.
THE PADI DIVER MEDICAL QUESTIONNAIRE HAS CHANGED...
... THREE times since the pandemic hit.
So, if you've been out the loop for a little bit, your forms are seriously out of date if the PADI medical questionnaire you're using still looks like this:
In June 2020, after it had become obvious that the rona caused severe (and at the time unknown) issues with the lungs, the dive medics created a new form that highlighted COVID-19 as a particular concern.
This meant that anyone with a positive diagnosis of COVID needed to get signed off before they could dive. Very sensible seeing as no one new the true effects of COVID generally back then, never mind the impact it would have on divers.
As we came out the back of the first lockdown we had in the UK, one or two of our customers fell into this "I had COVID" category and we ushered them off to the docs to get signed off. That was June 2020 and we were lucky that cases of covid were relatively low in the North East.
As we'd expected, GPs were extremely reluctant to sign anyone off - they just didn't have enough information about the virus and the impact it would have on divers. The divers were understandably disappointed about their forced break from the water, but they knew that their health was more important and not to risk it until things were better understood.
Fast forward 18 months through the Delta and Omicron variants, and pretty much everyone and their pet hamster has had covid.
A huge chunk of our divers now had to get medical clearance, and GPs still weren't happy to sign off (which I completely understand - I'd be reluctant to put my name on it if I were a doc). Their next port of call was our local UKDMC dive doc Prof. Talbot who is an absolute star. The downside was that he had waiting lists of over 8 weeks to be seen.
It was getting to the point where I didn't want any of my divers to mention their health to me. As soon as they told me they'd had covid, no matter how mild, it was like signing a death sentence on their diving adventures.
From a business point of view, this was getting serious too. It was squeaky bum time because of the amount of business I had to turn away every day. They had to go and get signed off, I knew deep down that it was pretty unlikely.
In January this year, I got the email - the PADI medical form has changed! I thought the covid questions might have been tweaked so that it only picked up on serious cases of covid and all these millions of asymptomatic and mild cases wouldn't need clearance and we could get the business back on track.
This is what we got:
That's even worse! Now you don't even need to have officially tested positive, you just need to have symptoms!
Although Box A did bring it back to only positive cases needing sign off:
I dunno about you though, that's very confusing... "since I last had a diving medical"? What if I'm just starting my Open Water Course and I've never done one of these forms before? Can I answer "no" even if I've had covid???
So yeah, that medical didn't help my divers or my business either.
The good news is that this version lasted less than a month.
Now we have a....
NEW PADI MEDICAL FORM THAT DOESN'T HAVE ANY COVID QUESTIONS
It landed last week and thank god.
Take a look at it here and you can start using it straight away.
You'll see that there is no mention of COVID-19. At all.
At first I was a little bit taken aback by that. Although I'm no medical expert, I think we can all agree that serious covid could well cause a scuba diver some serious issues. The last thing I want is to take a diver underwater without knowing they've had bad rona and they end up getting into difficulty.
On the flip side, I'm so happy that the barrier for all my divers to get back in the water is now completely removed. Happy for them, and happy for my dive centre.
If you read the questions in more detail, you'll see that serious cases of covid won't fall through the gaps.
DIVERS WHO HAVE HAD A SERIOUS CASE OF COVID WILL STILL NEED SIGNING OFF
Although it's not mentioned specifically, a diver who has had a really serious case of covid will still need medical clearance because these questions will catch it:
So that puts my mind at ease and still gets the vast majority of my divers back in the water and having fun.