ED Docs Fret About H1N1 Strain on Resources

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , October 13, 2009

Nearly 90% of more than 1,000 emergency physicians say they have concerns about their emergency department's ability to care for an influx of H1N1 flu patients, according to a new Internet poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians. Only 16% of emergency physicians in the poll believe the federal government is doing everything it can to provide them the resources needed to respond to a severe flu outbreak.

"Emergency physicians will do everything they can to guide and help people through this flu pandemic," says Angela Gardner, MD, president of the ACEP, which represents 28,000 emergency physicians. "But a national surge capacity plan must be developed, and resources must be provided to help our nation's hospital emergency departments be ready to respond to public health crises, such as this pandemic or a terrorist attack or other catastrophes."

ACEP conducted the poll from Sept. 15-23. E-mails were sent to 20,464 emergency physicians across the United States, and 1,043 responded.

Only $135 million—roughly 4%—of the $3.38 billion in federal funding for emergency preparedness was spent on medical preparedness, according to a 2006 study by the Institute of Medicine. The CDC said H1N1 has been confirmed in all 50 states with at least 21 states reporting widespread outbreaks. Unlike the traditional flu, which typically affects older individuals worse than others, the H1N1 virus is targeting younger individuals more severely than other age groups. The federal government began distributing the H1N1 vaccine this month.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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