HHS needs to support its proposed guidelines on preparing for an influenza pandemic by providing sufficient funding and resources to businesses and communities, healthcare officials said last week.
The draft guidelines, which were released last week, address the purchasing and use of facemasks and respirators by individuals and families, anti-viral drug use during a pandemic, and what measures employers should take in stockpiling anti-viral drugs in preparation for such an event. Comments on the guidelines are due July 3.
Some healthcare organizations are just beginning to review HHS proposals. We appreciate the departments focus on preparing for an influenza pandemic, said David Allen, a spokesman for the American Hospital Association, in a written statement. As part of Americas vital healthcare infrastructure, hospitals play a key role in readiness throughout our country, he said. Well continue to review this guidance and will offer comment based on our analysis. Other groups, such as the not-for-profit Trust for Americas Health, have early concerns that the guidelines would pose an undue burden on businesses and communities.
Asking employers and families to take tangible steps to prepare in advance for a pandemic influenza outbreak is a step in the right direction, said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for Americas Health, in a written statement. However, he cautioned that the federal government should do all it can to ensure protection for every American, especially those employed by smaller businesses that may not have the ability or resources to fully prepare for a pandemic.
In the event of a pandemic outbreak, leaving the massive costs and logistical responsibilities to businesses and individuals, without the assurance of equal access to key prevention strategies, such as anti-virals and respirator masks, is not an option, Levi said.
The draft guidelines make it clear that all sectors of society have a role to play in pandemic preparedness, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, in a written statement. Yet, it is important to ensure that all families and individuals are able to access the recommended protective materials by dedicating sufficient funding to providing for those who cannot afford them, he said.
Dan Hanfling, who is medical director of emergency management and disaster medicine for five-hospital Inova Health System, Falls Church, Va., thought the guidelines were helpful, but we still have to figure out a way to prioritize distribution of medical supplies, equipment, etc., he said in an e-mail.
Hospitals and emergency response agencies, being on the front line, should probably be at the top of that list, he said.