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No Pandemic Plan in US-Nursing Homes

No Pandemic Plan in US-Nursing Homes

Photo: Elderly woman in wheelchair with a nurse 

If an influenza pandemic hits the United States, acute care hospitals are likely to be overwhelmed. A new study suggests that many are not prepared for such a task.

Of the more than 400 nursing homes in the study, just 23 percent had a specific pandemic influenza plan. Another quarter of the nursing homes had a pandemic response incorporated into an overall disaster response plan. And more than half – 52 percent – did not have any pandemic plan.

"If nursing homes are called upon to serve as alternative care centres for patients who can't be treated in overcrowded hospitals, the impact on the nursing homes could be vast”, says lead author Philip W. Smith, Medical Doctor, of University of Nebraska Medical Center. "While most facilities felt that nursing homes were being counted on to take hospital overflow patients in a pandemic, in reality few homes would be able to do so."

"Nursing homes may not be equipped to handle an influx of influenza as well as non-influenza patients. They may also be unwilling to accept overflow patients, if it means displacing their current residents," adds senior author Lona Mody, Medical Doctor, of the University of Michigan Health System and research scientist at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Half of the nursing homes in the study had stockpiled some commonly used supplies such as gloves and hand hygiene products. Less than half had provided pandemic education to staff members. Just six percent had conducted pandemic influenza outbreak exercises.

In more optimistic findings, more than three-quarters – 77 percent – of all Michigan and Nebraska nursing homes had a person or staff position designated as being responsible for pandemic preparedness. Access to laboratory facilities for the detection of influenza was available at 84 percent of these nursing homes. Another 71 percent provide mental health and/or faith-based services.

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