Study: Most nursing homes don't have pandemic flu plans ...

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CDC releases guidance for long-term care on swine flu infection
CDC releases guidance for long-term care on swine flu infection
Fewer than a quarter (23%) of all nursing homes have a plan for dealing with a massive flu outbreak, according to a new study. About 25% had a pandemic response as part of a broader overall disaster plan.

But more than half (52%) of the more than 400 nursing homes in the study did not have any pandemic plan. A pandemic is an outbreak of an illness on a global scale.

"If nursing homes are called upon to serve as alternative care centers for patients who can't be treated in overcrowded hospitals, the impact on the nursing homes could be vast," said lead author Philip W. Smith, M.D., professor and chief, Section of Infectious Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center. "While most facilities felt that nursing homes were being counted on to take hospital overflow patients in a pandemic, in reality, few homes would be able to do so."

Partly because of "high" occupancy rates, nursing homes may be unwilling or logistically unable to accept new patients, whether or not they are flu-stricken, the study's senior author added. Improving communications with other healthcare providers, as well as planning for staff shortages, are "critical" preparation steps to take, she added.

While just 6% of facilities had conducted pandemic influenza outbreak exercises, half had stockpiled some common supplies and 77% had someone designated as being responsible for pandemic preparedness.  All facilities in Michigan and Nebraska were solicited for information for the study (69% responded). Findings appear in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.