A flu pandemic and disaster preparation plan that has languished for more than two years is finally moving at the State House. The bill gives the Department of Public Health new authority to direct state resources and personnel and quarantine areas or people. It provides liability protection for medical staff that might be required to work in nontraditional settings. Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach says although bird flu outbreaks, for example, are not in the daily news, the state must be prepared.
All indications are that we will have a serious influenza epidemic in the coming years and part of our responsibility is to plan for possible emergencies even if they are emergencies that are not likely to occur for many, many years.
The bill does not provide funding for additional hospital beds, medical supplies or medications, but asks for a report on funding needs by years' end. Massachusetts has begun stockpiling anti-virals.
The bill cleared the Senate today. A House sponsor says he expects a similar version will pass in that chamber.
This program aired on July 1, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.