Hospitals Not Prepared For Swine Flu


PALO ALTO, CA (ASRN.ORG)- Nurses at more than one-fourth of hospitals in nine states report that their hospitals aren't doing enough to isolate existing swine flu patients, according to a new survey. That's one of several problems hospitals are likely to encounter when dealing with a cresting swine flu epidemic.

The CNA/NNOC survey, which surveyed nurses at 190 U.S. healthcare facilities, found that nurses at 15 percent of hospitals don't have access to appropriate respirator masks. At almost one-fifth of hospitals, the masks were appropriate but not "fitted" to make sure they protected health workers properly. And at 40 percent of hospitals, nurses are expected to re-use masks. 

Such infection control issues are already leading to the spread of the H1N1 virus among health workers. At 18 percent of the hospitals surveyed, nurses said their colleagues had become infected with the virus. 

It's not surprising, given the ongoing problems healthcare providers face with infection control, but still worth noting: A new bulletin says that some healthcare workers are picking up the H1N1 virus on the job. 

Right now, the number is modest, with a known 81 U.S. healthcare workers having laboratory-confirmed swine flu. What worries authorities, however, is that about half seem to have gotten infected on the job, a stat that could have serious implications for the future of the pandemic. If the virus spreads further, and follows this pattern, it could disable enough healthcare workers to slow the health system down substantially. 

To help address the spread of H1N1, potential swine flu patients be identified "at the front door" to allow hospital personnel to institute special infection precautions like masks, isolation and increased hand hygiene. It's also recommending that healthcare workers get Tamiflu in personnel who've been exposed to swine flu.

Copyright 2009- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved 


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