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Survey: Many healthcare facilities ill-prepared for pandemic flu outbreak (4/20)

Many U.S. healthcare facilities are not prepared to protect healthcare workers from exposures to pandemic influenza, according to a new report compiled by six major labor unions and the AFL-CIO. At more than 104 health care facilities nationwide, a “pandemic flu preparedness survey” was administered over the course of 2008 to determine the level of worker safety and health preparedness on a facility basis.

While results of the survey indicate healthcare facilities have made some progress in preparing for an influenza pandemic, it found that over a third of the surveyed facilities have no written plan for responding to pandemic flu. More than one-third believe their workplace is either not ready or only slightly ready to address the health and safety needs necessary to protect healthcare workers during a pandemic. More than 43 percent of respondents felt that, given this lack of readiness, most or some of their co-workers would stay home in the event of a pandemic outbreak.

The report, available at www. HealthCareWorkersInPeril.org lists recommendations to address the problems uncovered by the survey. It calls for OSHA to issue a mandatory standard requiring healthcare facilities to protect all healthcare workers from exposure to pandemic flu. It also calls for Congressional action to ensure that healthcare workers not currently covered by OSHA are covered by the mandatory standard and to assess the extent and readiness of facilities to protect workers.

The survey and report were jointly produced by the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United American Nurses (UAN) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

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