The story Pandemic peril (April 6, p. 6) omitted a critical issue that must be addressed during an influenza pandemic or other major communicable disease emergency: maintaining essential medical services for nonpandemic patients. How will already strained facilities deliver the quality of care these patients require and deserve?
With Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding, the Greater New York Hospital Association and the New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Department are developing a plan that will define the legal and regulatory modifications necessary to meet the anticipated shortages in medical-care-delivery services during a pandemic, outline the ethical ramifications of changes to medical-care delivery, and propose communication strategies to alert the public to those changes.
With its large population, the New York City area would likely be hit particularly hard by pandemic influenza, and its vulnerable populationswhich have difficulty finding adequate care under normal circumstanceswill have even greater difficulty accessing essential medical services.
Emergency preparedness is more challenging than ever. But as long as an influenza pandemic remains a real threat to our nation and the world, treating patients effectively during an emergency is a topic that demands our constant vigilance.
Maria K. Woods
Vice president, legal, professional and regulatory affairs
Greater New York Hospital Association