“It’s not good enough just to have a plan, says Dick Zoutman, professor of Community Health and Epidemiology and lead researcher on the study. “You have to test it. You have to know how well it will work in an emergency. Every plan should be tsted, and I’m surprised and concerned we aren’t there already in the face of SARS and bird flu.”
In addition, key players were not involved in developing the plans, and funding for pandemic preparedness was inadequate.
Small and rural hospitals surveyed are less likely to have tested their pandemic plans because staff members already have multiple duties and may not have pandemic expertise.
“Planning for a pandemic is a complicated and enormous task,” says Dr. Zoutman, who is also the Medical Director of Infection Prevention & Control at Kingston General Hospital. “More funding should be made available to these smaller hospitals.”
“You have to look at staffing levels, supply chain – everything from the basement to the ceiling,” he adds. “It’s like planning a wedding, except you don’t know the date, who the bride and groom are, what is to be served at dinner and you have to keep the flowers fresh for when the big day happens.”
The study’s findings are published in the February issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.
Other members of the research team are Douglas Ford (Kingston General Hospital Infection Control Research Unit), Brian Schwartz (Ontario Agency for Health Protection), and Kingston consultant Matt Melinyshyn.
The project was funded by The Change Foundation (TCF), an independent charitable foundation established by the Ontario Hospital Association.
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