Report: Washington hospital beds could run out due to H1N1 - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Report: Washington hospital beds could run out due to H1N1

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WASHINGTON. - Trust for America's Health (TFAH) released a new report Thursday that finds 15 states, including Washington, could run out of their available hospital beds during the peak of the outbreak, if 35 percent of Americans get sick from the H1N1 flu virus.

Twelve additional states could reach or exceed 75 percent of their hospital bed capacity, based on estimates from the FluSurge model developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the new report, H1N1 Challenges Ahead, 30,474 people in Washington may need to be hospitalized. This would mean 107 percent of the state's hospital beds would be filled at the height of the outbreak, exceeding the state's available number of beds.

In addition, 2,292,228 people in Washington could get sick if 35 percent of Americans get H1N1.

"Health departments and communities around the country are racing against the clock as the pandemic unfolds," said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. "The country's much more prepared than we were a few short years ago for a pandemic, but there are some long-term underlying problems which complicate response efforts, like surge capacity and the need to modernize core public health areas like communications and surveillance capabilities."

The report examines other H1N1 outbreak concerns the country faces this fall related to vaccines, antiviral medication, health care, and special needs of at-risk communities. Additional key findings from the report include:

  • Last year, only 38.0 percent of adults in Washington were vaccinated against the seasonal flu. This means that there will need to be a major upsurge in vaccinations in order to vaccinate the entire population for H1N1 compared to what states and communities have managed in the past.
  • 71.4 percent of seniors (over the age of 65) in Washington are vaccinated for the flu annually, but only 26.3 percent of younger adults in Washington receive vaccinations (ages 18 to 49). Seasonal flu vaccination efforts have concentrated on immunizing seniors, but H1N1 is considered to be more dangerous for young adults and children, which means outreach for vaccinations must be very different.
  • Budget cuts and layoffs in states and communities are hampering preparedness efforts. Local health departments eliminated 8,000 staff positions in the first half of 2009, which adds to the 7,000 local public health jobs lost in 2008. In addition, federal public health preparedness funding was cut by 25 percent from fiscal year 2005 to 2009.
  • Nearly half of private sector workers do not have any paid sick leave benefits, which means millions of Americans will face losing their jobs if they are sick or going to work and contaminating others.
  • While the federal government pays for the purchase and distribution of vaccines, payment for the administration of vaccines will be the responsibility of insurance providers, state and local health officials, or, in some cases, it could be an out-of-pocket cost for individuals.
  • There are 47 million Americans without health coverage. If 35 percent of the public becomes infected with H1N1, some 15 million uninsured Americans could become sick and either go without care or seek care in already crowded emergency rooms.
  • African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to have severe cases of H1N1 because they suffer from more underlying chronic conditions, like asthma and diabetes, at the same time many significant gaps remain in systems for reaching minority communities. For instance, emergency preparedness information is often disseminated on the Internet, which many people do not have access to, and there is limited availability of non-English information.

- Trust for America's Health

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