Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hospitals may choose who receives care in swine flu pandemic

An emergency flu plan reported this week, outlined what will happen in Florida -- if there is a flu pandemic.

The Orlando Sentinel's story doesn't hold any punches. Care will be rationed. It will be up to hospitals -- not family members -- to decide who gets treatment and who does not.

I almost missed this story. It never seemed to make the top headline. It wasn't a "most e-mailed" favorite. I had to Google it three different ways to find the original newspaper report. This story isn't really on the radar. I'm surprised, because the health care reform debate still rages.

I am still wondering why. This is pretty dire stuff.

The document, drawn up by a team from across Florida that included Orange
County Health Director Dr. Kevin Sherin, addresses one of the most delicate
issues in medicine: what to do if the number of severely ill people needing
ventilators and other treatment dramatically exceeds what is available.
The goal, the plan says, is to focus care on patients whose lives could be saved and who would be most likely to function better if they were given whatever resources
were available. It says those decisions are not to be made based on patients'
perceived social worth or social role, but the plan calls for different rules
for some populations.

The fact that a state health board is considering such measures, shows how serious the swine flu is. It also points to a weakness in our system -- we may not have enough medical equipment to help those in need.

While I don't hear a lot of chatter on the report right now, I'm sure people will be commenting later. I immediately thought about my late husband Jimmy. His breathing was compromised and he had to use a tracheotomy to help him breathe. If I read the news article right, he probably would have been on the list to be refused treatment. Thankfully, we never were put in that situation.

During this swine flu season, I worry about the families who may face a situation like this "plan" outlined in Florida. I pray it won't come to this rationing of care, but without the proper equipment -- it sounds like it could be a reality.

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