Emergency plans help hospitals cope with H1N1

The H1N1 virus has hospitals and medical centers across the nation dealing with vaccine and staff shortages, large and occasionally unruly crowds looking for vaccinations and an influx of seasonal flu sufferers. All of these elements put hospitals in a vulnerable position, but Patrick V. Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT, says hospitals can be prepared if they have a practiced emergency/crisis plan in place.

With flu season just beginning, the number of H1N1 cases is expected to rise. Fiel said that hospitals will need additional personnel to deal with the added demands. Communication will also play a major role in successfully handling difficult situations that may arise.

“If a hospital dose not have a mass notification system, one can be implemented in 24-48 hours and can reach thousands of people in a matter of minutes,” he said.

Once up and running, a mass notification system can quickly alert hospital staff – via email, voice mail, text messages or a fax – about anything from schedule changes to security updates. It can also send vital information out to people in the community.

Fiel said, “A mass notification system is the best way for hospitals and medical centers to keep people informed about how H1N1 is affecting their local communities. It could even let people know whether their local hospital or medical center has enough of the H1N1 vaccine to go around. It could also inform people about their options for alternate treatment if their local doctor’s office is out of the vaccine.”

Fiel noted that many nurses throughout the country have also expressed concern over their hospital’s safety and planning preparation for the spread of H1N1.

Fiel also suggested that hospital officials designate special areas of the hospital to treat people who might be experiencing flu-like symptoms. Since hospitals still have to provide treatment for people who come for non flu-related treatment, he said it is important to expose as few people to the H1N1 virus as possible.

He also recommended keeping local law enforcement officials updated on the arrival of new vaccine, dates of administration and other issues related to H1N1. That way, officers can be better prepared to assist.

- PSW Staff

Image of Patrick V. Fiel