Emergency Preparedness

This has certainly been an interesting few weeks. The news is filled with stories of swine flu and budget cuts – bringing to mind, prevention, planning and choice. Recently, I participated in a group meeting to provide feedback on prioritization of health related services in the case of a disaster. This meeting was co-sponsored by Public Health-Seattle/King County, Washington State Department of Health, and the Center for Disease Control. In attendance were various leaders from health and human services industries. It was coincidental that swine flu was on the rise. During our interactions, I discovered some interesting facts. Here’s one: Since 1997, we have the same number of hospitals with the same number of beds, and yet we have 300,000 more people in the county. Critical care supports, especially respirators, are in extremely short supply. If there was an outbreak of a pandemic flu, choices would have to be made about who receives those limited supports. Health service providers would have to begin prioritizing who receives assistance and how services are provided. We were at this meeting to share our values and thoughts about this process. There have been numerous meetings and studies with the intention of creating a set of guidelines for health care professionals, on the front line, to follow. This experience of prioritizing and analyzing was also beneficial to many of the participants, since we support people that need extra supports in the first place. In light of the budget cuts, many organizations are faced with prioritizing services and making choices of who will receive limited resources. Our choices are not easy. Our hope is to make the best plans possible and choices today that will benefit the future of our community.

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