Obama declares H1N1 emergency

Jenny Decker RN's picture
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In an email declaration, President Obama has declared an H1N1 emergency. This national emergency is not in response to anything new with the H1N1 situation. However, to provide individual hospitals with the needed tools they need to handle overload problems, this was a critical step in caring for the nation’s citizens, writes Reuters.

Since the beginning of the H1N1 virus pandemic, the CDC reports this week that there have been 8204 lab confirmed hospitalizations, with 21,823 pneumonia and flu-syndrome associated hospitalizations across America. Already 46 of the 50 states have widespread swine flu. Some hospitals have become overwhelmed with these cases, requiring the ability to respond in appropriate ways that must be approved by the government, writes The Washington Post.

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This declaration is not meant to panic anyone, and it must be noted that this is different from the public health emergency announced in the spring. This H1N1 flu national emergency has been issued to allow hospitals to request the ability to establish off-site, alternate care facilities. These would be used to assist in dealing with the demands placed on the hospital due to H1N1, states the White House. In other words, disaster plans will be able to be put in force quickly, without a lot of red tape.

In response to the move by President Obama, public health experts are cheering it on. They state that this will help both hospitals and emergency responders to act quickly in the event that that there are large numbers of people as the swine flu outbreak continues.

Jennifer Nuzzo of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Biosecurity states, “We know a number of hospitals are already experiencing high but manageable loads. It’s not a stretch that hospitals could be strained.” She continues, “It’s just a precautionary move, so if need be we can focus on the care of patients rather than focus on administrative hurdles. In disasters, you often don’t have the time or luxury to keep the paperwork in order. You want hospitals focusing on patients.”

Obama’s action still requires each hospital to request the waiver. So if a hospital finds it may need the extra ability to treat large numbers of people, it must ask for the waiver. According to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, hospitals must follow certain guidelines during day to day operations. They are not able to activate certain rapid triage or sorting activities without a national emergency declaration. With Obama’s declaration today, this provides the hospitals of the nation to activate these necessary measures in order to treat large numbers of people with the swine flu if it indeed becomes critical for the patients.

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The U.S. president, Barack Obama, has signed a decree establishing a national emergency in light of the current status of the swine flu. The question is if it is a ploy to simply push through the health care reform through a federalization of the health care centers or if its all just a question of too little too late. Here we take a close lookat it in more depth.