Taking preparedness to the next level
UPMC to mail avian flu and emergency planning guide to homes of all staff
In the event of an avian flu pandemic or other major disaster or emergency, all UPMC physicians and staff, including those in nonclinical roles, will be needed to provide care and related services.
To help employees meet this challenge, UPMC has prepared a 20-page Avian Flu and Pandemic Preparedness Guide for Staff. The guide will be mailed to the home addresses of all UPMC physicians and staff beginning next week.
Loren Roth, MD, MPH, senior vice president, Quality Care, and chief medical officer, UPMC, points out that the health system, through programs such as Safety Link, has always made emergency preparedness a priority.
“Good emergency-response planning not only addresses expected types of emergencies, such as a flood or airline disaster, it also must take into account potential threats about which there are limited scientific facts and many variables,” says Dr. Roth.
“Today, the avian flu is a potential threat that cannot be ignored,” adds Dr. Roth, who also chairs the UPMC Avian Flu Task Force, a multidisciplinary group that has been meeting since early 2005 and is working closely with local, regional, and state officials to develop preparedness plans.
Basic information and more
One purpose of the guide is to explain to UPMC employees why avian flu is a worldwide health concern and the potentially devastating impact a pandemic (a worldwide epidemic) would have on the United States.
“At this time, humans have no immunity protection again H5N1, the avian flu virus. If the H5N1 virus mutates and acquires the ability to spread easily from person to person, an influenza pandemic could begin,” says Dr. Roth.
No one can accurately predict the severity of an avian flu pandemic. Modeling studies suggest that the impact of a pandemic could be substantial. In the absence of any control measures (for example, a vaccine), it has been estimated that a medium-level pandemic in the United States could cause at least 89,000 deaths and 314,000 to 734,000 hospitalizations. A severe pandemic could result in many more deaths.
In addition to providing basic information about the avian flu and pandemics, the guide encourages all staff to take steps now so they will be prepared to serve the high volume of patients expected to be admitted to UPMC hospitals.
“If a pandemic occurs, this region will count on UPMC to provide care and treatment. The guide provides resources and recommendations that all physicians and staff can use to help us fulfill our mission,” says Dr. Roth.
Keep yourself and your family safe
Portions of the guide are devoted to steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe during disasters or emergencies.
These materials include tips to care for family members with influenza at home, a checklist to stock and maintain a disaster supplies kit, and the UPMC Safety Link Your Family Emergency Plan.
The guide also informs staff that schools, preschools, and day care centers may be closed in a pandemic. Therefore, they should take steps now to find alternative child care. Resources and suggestions to address this issue as well as elder care are provided.
“In this guide, as in our Safety Link and other preparedness materials, UPMC continues to reinforce the need for all employees at every level in the organization to plan ahead before a crisis develops,” says Dr. Roth. “With good planning, you can meet your responsibility to keep your family safe and help UPMC fulfill its mission to provide medical care in times of crisis.”