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By Brandon Lorenz, Senior Editor
Emergency Preparedness Article Use Policy
If the swine flu outbreak becomes a pandemic, facility professionals at health care buildings would face an enormous challenge: keeping the facilities open as patient loads surge to record levels.
The good news is that a new report by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concluded that the ability of hospitals to respond to emergencies has improved significantly across the nation since 2002.
"This is primarily a clinical issue, not an engineering issue," says Jerry Gervais, associate director for the standards interpretation group at the Joint Commission. Gervais formerly served as director of facility planning, design and regulatory compliance for Advocate General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
One challenge facility and engineering professionals would face is the issue of isolation during a pandemic, says Gervais. It's not unusual for hospitals to have rooms set up with a pressure differential to create isolation rooms to keep very ill patients segregated from staff and other patients. "During a pandemic, there will be nowhere near enough such spaces," Gervais says. In such cases, hospitals will need to implement a triage procedure according to their emergency response plans.
Another important step is for the hospital's environmental services staff to know how to properly disinfect rooms that have been exposed to patients who are being treated during a pandemic. "That would be critical," Gervais says.
To review the report on pandemic planning for hospitals, visit the UPMC Web site.
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