Bank creating flu firewall for workers
A Bank of Hawaii executive says plans are being prepared in case of a pandemic
The Bank of Hawaii is examining ways to keep its work force healthy in a flu pandemic, including methods to prevent the spread of viruses to care of sick dependents of workers.
"The bottom line, this environment is going to be about managing people, sick or healthy," Senior Vice President Raymond Trombley told about 150 participants at a Hawaii Pandemic Flu Preparedness Working Meeting on Tuesday at the Pacific Beach Hotel.
Absentee policies, sick leave and dependent care are among issues involved in managing employees, he said, explaining policies have been established at the bank's corporate level to assist employees.
"It's more valuable to keep employees healthy than to come to work and infect everyone," Trombley said. Families also must be protected so employees do not have to stay home and care for them, he said.
Trombley cited the need for a "culture of infection," encouraging people to wash their hands and cover their mouth and nose if they sneeze or cough. "We are already implementing hand-sanitizing areas," he said.
A chain of leadership has been developed for every bank department to cover for those who might be ill, he said. Among other planning steps, he said the bank has identified which of its 500 units are most critical to business operations and which must be recovered first, which operations will increase or decrease, need for alternate work sites for staff and increased telecommunications.
Dr. Paul Effler, chief of the state Health Department's Disease Outbreak Control Division, said it is essential to protect employees' health and the economy "and keep society operational."
Hawaii's supply of Tamiflu has arrived for stockpiling in event avian flu is identified here, Effler said.
But it is only enough to treat 25 percent of the population, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, he noted.
"It is a challenge to identify those needing it and get it to them early," Effler said. And it might have limited use, he added, noting adverse effects recently reported from the flu drug in Japan.
Kaleo Keolanui, Hawaii Hotel and Visitor Industry Security Agency president, said members have been asked to designate coordination teams to carry out plans and make sure subcontractors and suppliers have a plan. "Hotels in Waikiki ran out of fuel in the (Oct. 15) earthquake," he said.
"Education and awareness is the key, not only to employees, but their families," Keolanui said.
The health of workers is a major concern, with policies recommended to reduce face-to-face contact among employees and guests, he said. "How do we service people if employees don't come to work?"
His agency recommends developing leadership succession plans for all management levels, advising all employees of the plan and posting advisories for hotel guests.
Lt. Col. Clayton Sutton, pandemic influenza deliberate planner for the U.S. Pacific Command, which has responsibilities for 43 countries, said pandemic planning is being done at a fairly high level.
Activities are under way with a regional and multinational focus to maintain military forces' health and operational readiness and support civil authorities internationally and domestically, he said.
"We need to help countries that need it. We have a better chance of stopping it (a pandemic) before it hits Guam or Hawaii," Sutton said.