CDC Warns Health Care Providers to Prepare for Overwhelmed Hospitals and Clinics in the Fall

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Friday began distributing millions of dollars to help cash-strapped states respond to the H1N1 pandemic amid a deep economic recession that has decimated local health budgets.

“For a pandemic to come in this economy is enormously challenging,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the National Association of County and City Health Officials annual conference. “If we could have chosen a different time for the H1N1 to come, we would have.”

After Frieden’s speech, a CDC spokesman said $260 million was on its way to the states, part of a $350 million package of federal grants announced on July 10 to help the country prepare for the worst. The remaining $90 million is earmarked for hospitals.

Frieden acknowledged that budget cuts and layoffs had hit the nation’s state and local public health agencies. He encouraged city and county health officials to get busy soliciting volunteers and creating partnerships with local schools, businesses and nursing services to beef up their communities’ ability to manage the pandemic and the mass vaccinations planned for this autumn.

“There is no magic answer to this,” Frieden said.
Health officials were warned during the three-day conference in Orlando to expect hospitals, emergency rooms and clinics to be overwhelmed by sick patients as the flu season begins in the autumn.

Frieden advised the health workers to prepare for the possibility of full intensive care wards and to try to find ways to expand the normal capacity for respiratory therapy.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

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