For those of you who didn’t make it to the APIC conference last week, or for those who did and didn’t make it to all the sessions they wanted to, here are a few of my own thoughts from last week.
Obviously there was quite a bit of education surrounding pandemic planning and how hospitals and government agencies reacted to the H1N1 outbreaks. Even before the World Health Organization declared an official pandemic , many of us were worried about what the fall might bring.
I attended one of the pandemic focus group calls, and one of the running themes was employee health. Many facilities said they had trouble getting staff members to adhere to droplet precautions set by the CDC. Some facilities were assessing every employee as he or she came in the door, which was a time-consuming process.
As many of you know, there are a number of IPs out there that function as the employee health director as well. In that sense I heard a lot of concern that the employee health professional organizations offered very little guidance during the H1N1 outbreaks. Employee health professionals depended heavily on APIC, the CDC, and WHO, and other healthcare organizations for constant information and recommendations.
Finally, there was a common concern regarding N95 respirators. Many facilities expressed frustration with their vendors who said they would ship supplies once the outbreaks hit, but never came through. Here in Nebraska, the state health department has said they learned we cannot depend on vendors, so there will be more of an emphasis on stockpiling so that medical facilities can have quick access to respirators. However, this approach could be turned on its head, since SHEA recently recommended the use of surgical masks  to protect against H1N1 and seasonal flu, rather than N95 respirators.
But for now a respiratory fit testing plan will still be a part of pandemic planning. You can read about implementing a “just-in-time” program in the July 2009 issue of Medical Environment Update  and OSHA Watch .