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Updated 3:00 PM August 7, 2008
 

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Most nursing homes lack plan for pandemic flu

If an influenza pandemic hits the United States, acute care hospitals are likely to be overwhelmed. Nursing homes then may be expected to assist with the patient overflow, but a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that many are not prepared for such a task.

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

"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," says senior author Dr. Lona Mody, assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Health System and research scientist, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System. "Nursing homes run a high occupancy rate, making it logistically difficult to accept a lot of patients if there is a time crunch."

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.

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