The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General has just released a report concluding that at least five states aren't ready for a pandemic such as the H1N1 virus, despite six years of funding and planning efforts.

The report, “State and Local Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: Medical Surge,” concludes that a total of ten localities within the five states wouldn't be able to handle a pandemic flu outbreak.

This review was conducted to determine how selected states and localities have prepared for medical surge in response to an influenza pandemic and the extent to which they have conducted and documented exercises that test their preparedness. It presents a snapshot of selected sates’ and localities’ preparedness for an influenza pandemic as of late summer 2008.

The states selected were Maine, Missouri, South Dakota, Virginia, and Washington. In each State, the researchers selected the largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and then selected the most populated city within that MSA. Also selected were one low- to medium-sized city in each state.

While all of the localities had partnerships in place to handle a medical surge, not all of them had good coordination plans in place, the OIG reported. Less than half of the localities had begun recruiting medical volunteers, and none of the five states in question had an electronic system in place to manage such efforts.

Other problems the OIG found included a lack of systems to track beds and equipment needed to manage a pandemic; little effort exerted in planning for alternate care sites; and little, if any, creation of guidelines for triage, admission and patient care during a medical surge.