WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Panic, staffing issues and geographic boundaries are some of the challenges that public health experts need to address as they plan for a possible influenza pandemic, according to a new report from Purdue University.
"Most public health experts who are leading planning efforts for an influenza outbreak are focusing on specific geographic areas, usually counties, as defined by political lines," said George Avery, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology and member of the Purdue Alternative Care Site Planning Team. "This is problematic because if there is an outbreak, planners need to take into account the people and health-care systems that are or are not around them.
"Counties that border other states may experience nonresidents seeking treatment in their area, while other counties may be home to the only isolated hospital system in the region and can expect the population from other states to travel there for care. Health care, especially in a crisis, is not defined by county or state lines."
For example, instead of each Indiana county health department making plans for its individual county, plans should be developed, or at least coordinated, regionally, Avery said.
Members of the Purdue Alternative Care Site Planning Team interviewed public health planners in 13 of Indiana's 92 counties from November 2006 to August 2007 as part of a pandemic planning gap analysis. The counties are Allen, Clay, Dearborn, Fulton, Huntington, Lake, Johnson, Montgomery, Orange, Posey, Randolph, Sullivan and Warrick. Purdue's Healthcare Technical Assistance Program assembled the team to look at issues about planning for alternative care sites and other surge capacity issues during a pandemic such as staffing concerns, medication supplies, and medical equipment access and health-care system and insurance limits.