County pandemic plans to apply to overall state response strategy


POSTED: Sunday, November 08, 2009

The state Health Department has a public health pandemic plan that integrates the hospital system, but there is no overall state pandemic management plan, officials say.

The counties “;recognized this void in strategic planning”; and joined to produce “;county-specific plans,”; said Melvin Kaku, director of the city Department of Emergency Management on Oahu and head of an executive steering committee.

Once the county plans are completed they will be integrated, “;then part of the effort will also be a state overarching plan,”; he said.

The city got a $2.1 million grant in December for the planning effort by the Department of Homeland Security through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Kaku said.

The plan must be finished by next September, he said, adding that a preliminary draft is expected to be ready in June.

Kaku said the counties have retained O'Brien's Response Management Inc., Texas-based global consultant on emergency preparedness, response management and disaster services.

“;From our perspective, if we have a pandemic situation, what is the county going to be doing?”; he said. “;The question is how can we best support the health system. ... To that extent, we would commit county resources and support or complement as needed.

“;The DOH normally runs alternative care facilities with HAH (Healthcare Association of Hawaii) support,”; Kaku said. “;All are going to be integrated. We're trying to identify what the needs are ... what type of resources or personnel stages we would go through in terms of responding.”;

The DOH's public health preparedness and response plan includes the hospital system and provides for continuity of operations, but “;it is probably true that there is not a global statewide plan,”; said state Health Director Chiyome Fukino.

However, every agency, business and household must make its own plans to cope with a pandemic, she said. “;If people take the position government will handle this, they will be very surprised. Government can't do everything for everybody.”;

The mainland surge of H1N1 flu cases hasn't hit here yet, so “;we have a gift of time and we're using it very well,”; said Toby Clairmont, director of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii's Emergency Management program.

“;Things are working really well, but a few things are in the way,”; he reported at a recent HAH membership meeting. One, he said, is “;there are no plans for managing a pandemic.”; For instance, there is no plan for mass fatalities, he said. “;But the absence of a plan doesn't stop us from moving forward.”;

Satellite communications are available now with every fixed hospital in the state, he said, and portable hospital modules have been positioned across the islands.

Medical and other supplies will be deployed around the state by the end of the year, he said.

Antiviral medications are being stocked in the hospitals under a DOH agreement and an exercise will be held Nov. 18 to test distribution to providers, Clairmont said.