H1N1 national emergency, hospitals react

By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - More than 1,000 Americans have died from H1N1, including 100 children. The flu is now widespread in 46 states, and President Obama declared this outbreak a national emergency. Hospitals can bypass federal rules when opening alternative care sites.

The term "national emergency" is associated with major disasters like hurricanes, floods or tornadoes.

"I think it is an excellent move," said Art Chance, the Vice President of Operations for East Texas Medical Center. "It is important for us to be prepared."

The goal of the declaration is just that: to give hospitals the freedom to prepare for the virus like an emergency. In a statement, President Obama said, "The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities."

East Texas hospitals have seen an increase in H1N1 patients over the past two months.

"We saw about a 15% increase in patients coming through our ERs here in Tyler," said Chance.

He says hospitals have emergency plans in place to speed treatment - even for crises like the flu.

"We actually have a tent that goes in a certain location," said Chance. "We drill putting that tent up. Everything from registration of patients to processing a physicians orders...all that can happen in that off site."

Trinity Mother Frances hospitals have similar plans.

"Disaster plans are to be modified based on the need at the time," said John Moore, with Trinity Mother Frances.

And, at this time, Moore says there isn't a need to implement emergency procedures here. For them, there's a bigger concern.

"Hospitals, like ours, still don't have any vaccines and, until we have vaccines, it won't change things," said Moore.

No matter their course of action, hospitals in East Texas are ready to take down this flu. ETMC says they are tracking how many patients come in to their hospitals each day. They will implement their emergency plans when there's a big enough surge of patients.

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