Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How One British City Is Preparing For The Pandemic

The city of Portsmouth has filled a local warehouse with emergency medical supplies in preparation for the bird flu pandemic. Here's what they've set aside for the local doctors and nurses who may have to deal with more than 50,000 very sick Portsmouthians :
5,000 masks...a similar amount of plastic gloves and aprons...Another 50 specialist masks – which offer greater protection – have also been bought for staff who would treat infected people.
Other emergency plans, revised after warnings from the British government's health department to pepare for "the worst case scenario", include :
Improving the staff database which will include staff who have left in the past two years but who could be called back to help out;

Stepping up links with voluntary organisations such as St John Ambulance;

Making the plan available to the public on the PCT website and informing staff through briefings and inductions;

Making health and council bosses available to talk to the media to reassure the public in the event of an outbreak.
Portsmouth GPs and medical staffs have been told the first wave of a bird flu pandemic could last as long as four months, with more to follow over a period of some two years.
Edward Borodzicz, professor of crisis and risk management at the University of Portsmouth, said nothing can prepare the city.

He said: 'We can't possibly imagine the impact of 30 per cent of the population having a flu that could kill 60 per cent of those who get it.

'Organisations are trying to make plans. It's better than having nothing, but often plans are nothing like what happens on the ground."
Government health department officials have told Portsmouth city council and the local health authority to prepare for the worst case scenario, and they changed their emergency response plans accordingly.

You can hear worldwide death toll figures of a 30 million or 100 million, and the numbers are all but incomprehensible.

But when the predicted infection and fatality rates from a bird flu pandemic are scaled to a British city the size of Portsmouth, the human toll comes into a more realistic, clearer and shocking focus.
Experts predict the flu virus would affect up to 30 per cent of the local population over the first two years – that's 57,600 people in Portsmouth...
With a nightmarishly high human fatality rate - 60% according to the World Health Organisation, almost 80% from Indonesian figures - that means a pandemic would likely kill more than 45,000 people in Portsmouth alone.

A commenter on Portsmouth Today did the math on the stockpile of masks, the 16 week length of a pandemic 'wave' and the number of GP/doctor practices in the city. Here's what they came up with :
...the stockpile is enough for 2 masks per day per practice. Who do you reckon should get the masks, the GP, the nurse, or the receptionist? And that's assuming nobody needs to change their mask half-way through the day cos somebody just coughed in your face! Good luck for staff turning up for work in a pandemic!

How local doctors, hospitals and health facilities across the world are going to ensure their staff turn up for work during a pandemic is one of the most troubling issues of all for those now planning how cities, towns and villages will deal with such lengthy outbreaks of the H5N1 virus.

Particularly when you consider that doctors, nurses and paramedics are likely to have sick relatives to look after themselves, and all those who fall ill will be quarantined inside their homes once the hospitals fill up.

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