Pandemic plan in place

The City of Red Deer is well-prepared for possible impacts of a severe H1N1 influenza outbreak among its staff and public and municipal facilities, a city official says.

The City of Red Deer is well-prepared for possible impacts of a severe H1N1 influenza outbreak among its staff and public and municipal facilities, a city official says.

Emergency management co-ordinator Don Huestis said the city is able to handle the H1N1 flu circulating the globe, including the potential of having significant numbers of sick employees.

“There has been an awful amount of planning for many years regarding pandemic planning and H1N1 is part of that,” Huestis said.

Across Alberta, work is underway to combat the new strain of influenza A. There have been 133 hospitalized confirmed cases of H1N1 in the province.

The city is in the process of enacting a pandemic crisis communications plan, including the fan out of Alberta Health Services information to city staff and facilities.

“We are taking our messaging from Alberta Health Services first and foremost,” Huestis said.

The distribution of posters, brochures and other formats are expected to happen as early as this week.

Collicutt Centre supervisor Barb McKee said patrons can expect to see posters in washrooms on how to handwash properly.

“But we aren’t moving to hand sanitizers,” she said. “We’re following the lead of Alberta Health Services and they are saying the protocol for proper handwashing is the most important.”

As of right now, there are no plans to install a bulk number of hand sanitizers at city facilities, Huestis added.

“There are plenty of washroom facilities,” he said.

Each city department has a pandemic plan, which includes how to handle staff absences.

The city’s pandemic planning is based on a worst-case scenario, or a 50 per cent absentee rate.

Huestis said the city has about 1,200 full-time and part-time staff.

The current threat for the H1N1 flu is rated “mild” at this point, so the number of employees who may miss work is much less than 50 per cent, Huestis said. “We would be talking anywhere from 12 to 20 per cent,” he said.

McKee said the Collicutt Centre is a nonessential service “so we’ll keep our doors open as long as we can.”

“But we don’t really expect to be at a point where the staff can’t meet the need,” she said. “We’ve got a fairly large pool.”

Huestis said he knows there are contingency plans in place for essential services like Red Deer Emergency Services.

“If we had a reduction in staff, we would have to reallocate resources amongst those five (stations),” Huestis said.

Planning also includes having enough ambulance resources.

“Instead of having two paramedics in an ambulance, we could go with one paramedic in the ambulance and a driver from one of the city departments,” Huestis said.

The city has done cross-training as well within smaller departments, so employees know how to handle a variety of tasks, he added.

Huestis urged residents to go to the Alberta Health Services website for more information at www.albertahealthservices.ca

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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