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Pandemic (H1N1) Influenza 2009 and Australian emergency departments : implications for policy, practice and pandemic preparedness

FitzGerald, Gerry, Aitken, Peter, Shaban, Ramon Z., Patrick, Jennifer, Arbon, Paul, McCarthy, Sally M., Clark, Michele, Considine, Julie, Finucane, Julie, Holzhauser, Kerri, & Fielding, Elaine (2012) Pandemic (H1N1) Influenza 2009 and Australian emergency departments : implications for policy, practice and pandemic preparedness. Emergency Medicine Australasia, 24(2), pp. 159-165.

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Abstract

Objective: To describe the reported impact of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 on EDs, so as to inform future pandemic policy, planning and response management.

Methods: This study comprised an issue and theme analysis of publicly accessible literature, data from jurisdictional health departments, and data obtained from two electronic surveys of ED directors and ED staff. The issues identified formed the basis of policy analysis and evaluation.

Results: Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 had a significant impact on EDs with presentation for patients with ‘influenza-like illness’ up to three times that of the same time in previous years. Staff reported a range of issues, including poor awareness of pandemic plans, patient and family aggression, chaotic information flow to themselves and the public, heightened stress related to increased workloads and lower levels of staffing due to illness, family care duties and redeployment of staff to flu clinics. Staff identified considerable discomfort associated with prolonged times wearing personal protective equipment. Staff believed that the care of non-flu patients was compromised during the pandemic as a result of overwork, distraction from core business and the difficulties associated with accommodating infectious patients in an environment that was not conducive.

Conclusions: This paper describes the breadth of the impact of pandemics on ED operations. It identifies a need to address a range of industrial, management and procedural issues. In particular, there is a need for a single authoritative source of information, the re-engineering of EDs to accommodate infectious patients and organizational changes to enable rapid deployment of alternative sources of care.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 53474
Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Emergency department, Influenza, Pandemic, Planning, Policy, CEDM
DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-6723.2011.01519.x
ISSN: 1742-6731
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified (111799)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Emergency & Disaster Management
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and Australasian Society for Emergency Medicine
Deposited On: 22 Nov 2012 23:02
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2014 05:59

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