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Pandemic Flu: Still a possibility!

Posted Apr 22 2009 11:44pm

The last issue of Modern Healthcare includes an article on pandemic flu that reviews concerns about by the CDC and others that hospitals are ill prepared for a serious outbreak.  Yes, their are cases of the flu jumping from birds and pigs (2 recently here in CA) to humans, but the human to human leap hasn' t yet been reached.  But, we all know it will one day and again I highly recommend the book  The Great Influenza  if you want a picture of what it wi ll be like. 

But today, I want to address the concerns and the acknowledgment that other priorities are shifting attention away from preparedness efforts.  From my perspective, hospitals, County public health and other providers do continue to plan for a pandemic and exercise these plans for staff training.  Unfortunately, there are a multitude of ever changing priorities and limited resources, but most hospitals are balancing and doing what they can to prepare for whatever may come their way.

For example, hospitals and others continue to build caches of supplies and equipment and drill on various scenarios - surge, mass casualty, pandemic, alternate care site, evacuation, etc.  Even though the drills may not be specifically on pandemic, they do help staff continue to develop the skills and confidence needed to think on their feet and to make decisions when faced with the unpredictable nature of any emergency situation.  I agree we need to continue to fund preparedness planning and research in pandemics, but don' t see the decrease in funding being necessarily bad.  Especially, if that funding continues to support local response training and preparedness activities.

As an administrator, I know to implement the hospital command center using HICS methodology for incident management. We drill on applying applying the methodology to emergency operations plans and our hospital' s preparedness and then incorporate our learning back into the planning process. It is the repetitiveness of understanding our specific roles in meeting expected needs that helps hospital employees respond to ensure that we can provide the needed healthcare services.  Preparedness is a process, not a destination.

As a society, and taxpayers, we need to support hospital and local preparedness efforts to respond to any disaster (fire, flood, earthquakes, hurricanes, pandemic, surge, evacuation, mass casualty, bioterrorism, etc.).  We need to learn more about our own community' s preparedness and the role of our local hospital(s).  We need to participate in community-wide drills and volunteer to help our hospitals with their efforts.  Most importantly, we need to prepare ourselves and families to stay healthy and safe during and after an event so we don' t unnecessarily contribute to the strain upon the hospitals.

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