Hospitals nationwide could quickly be clogged to capacity if there’s ever a wide-sweeping influenza outbreak and emergency planners are searching for alternatives. Doctor Philip Smith, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is the lead author of a study that finds nursing homes could provide some extra beds in the event of a pandemic flu.
Dr. Smith says, “Nursing homes look appealing at first, but when you look more closely, there are some problems in capacity and other preparedness items.” More than 600 nursing homes in Nebraska and Michigan were polled for the study, which found while many that responded had made some plans for dealing with a pandemic, only 23-percent had a specific pandemic flu response plan.
“The biggest finding is that nursing homes have started some preparedness work but they have a lot more to do,” he says. Smith makes it clear, the study is not attacking the nursing homes for their level of preparedness. “This is not an indictment of nursing homes at all. Nursing homes have really done a great job. They do not have a lot of money, do not have a lot of personnel.”
Smith says there were also positive findings uncovered by the research into nursing homes. “To me, the good news is about half of them have a flu plan and most of them have a person in charge of flu planning,” he says. “Perhaps most importantly, a majority of them have designated a person to be in charge of pandemic flu preparations-that’s their job. And that’s great.”
The findings are being published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.