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IRVING, TX -- Hospitals across the country are preparing for the increasing reality of a global flu pandemic. Novation, the healthcare contracting services company of VHA Inc. and the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC), surveyed materials managers to determine the status of their pandemic disaster preparations. While more than half of the hospitals surveyed (68 percent) reported that they have devoted resources to developing comprehensive pandemic-specific disaster plans, 79 percent of them reported that they could continue operations without external resources for less than one week. Fifty-four percent said that operations could continue for one to three days and 25 percent say they will be able to operate between four to seven days without external resources.
"Our survey provides some real insight into the supply crisis hospitals would face during a global flu pandemic," said Christine Miller, senior clinical manager at Novation. "Clearly, hospitals have dedicated a great deal of time to analyzing and making preparations to ensure they have adequate supplies in the event of a pandemic."
Novation distributed online questionnaires to 303 materials managers from VHA and UHC. Sixty-eight responses were received for a 22 percent response rate.
The survey probed for items included in pandemic-specific disaster plans. The majority of respondents (93 percent) have identified key products and suppliers that are essential to provide treatment to patients during a pandemic. Two-thirds said they have created collaborative plans with other hospitals, as well as their distributors. In addition, more than half of respondents have established automatic delivery of additional products and supplies upon notification of an outbreak, can manage critical business functions through an alternate location and can support existing business functions with limited staffing through cross training/skills development. Other findings include:
--Â More than half of respondents (60 percent) have a dedicated/separate inventory of key products and supplies with an increased production of these key products and supplies.
--Â Nearly one third (31 percent) have preprinted disaster preparedness order forms.
-- One item that will be in short supply during a flu pandemic will be respirators. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of respondents have plans in place to obtain additional respirators. Some hospitals (39 percent) plan to purchase them, while others (22 percent) plan to rent them. Another 39 percent said they will purchase and rent additional respirators.
-- More than half (60 percent) of respondents said their organization has designated a specific job title that only functions as the key lead role in disaster preparedness. Examples of job titles for this role include director of materials management, emergency preparedness director and committee, infection control coordinator and director of nursing.
When asked details about the plan, materials managers reported that additional aspects of hospital care were addressed. Aspects include emotional support of families, financial responsibility, cohorting/isolating patients, infection control issues, staffing issues, security and access, education and surge preparedness. When asked about the biggest challenge they will face in preparing and planning for a pandemic flu outbreak, respondents said buy-in within the hospital, logistics, public panic, security, and space and money to store back-up supplies, staffing, medication and other items that have short shelf life.