The private sector

The private sector, including hospitals and clinics, has increasingly become part of the network of key responders during epidemic outbreaks. In the United States, private hospitals and health-care facilities are required to develop emergency response plans. Relying on discretionary preparedness, planning, and responsibility can be disastrous - as the abandonment and death of patients in nursing homes in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina illustrates. The private sector receives guidance from the government, but is responsible for its own planning. As of yet, there is no common framework, and no common mandates, training, timetables, or chain of command in place. Emergency roles and authority at local, state, and federal levels have not always been clearly defined or established. If this experience has a message to apply going forward, it is that both private and public health facilities will be impacted and possibly overwhelmed by an infectious pandemic (Garrett, 2005). Therefore, defining and strengthening the role of the private sector in relation to the public sector is imperative.

In a global pandemic, a situation might be envisioned in which up to 50 percent of the workforce could become sick, there could be widespread panic, borders could close, and the global economy might shut down. During a global influenza epidemic of 12 to 36 months, there could be significant negative impact on air, ground, and shipping industries essential for the transport of health-care respond-ers, pharmaceuticals, food, water, and other supplies. The ability of other industries and services - such as banks, media outlets, public works and engineering, firefighting, energy suppliers, law enforcement, schools and child-care facilities, producers and distributors of food and essential goods - to deliver services is also vital. According to a Deloitte & Touche survey of US executives, released in 2006, only one-third of companies had adequately prepared for a pandemic such as avian flu (Bradsher and Rosenthal, 2006). Moreover, most of the companies that do have emergency plans focus only on dealing with localized disruptions (Osterholm, 2005). Clearly, more needs to be done to help the private sector prepare to respond to possible upcoming infectious disease emergencies.

Swine Influenza

Swine Influenza

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