Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Swine Flu Emergency Reshapes Hospital Plans

Reported by: Tim Gordon
Email: tgordon@koin.com
Last Update: 8:45 am

PORTLAND- The national emergency declaration by President Barack Obama has little to do with the speed the H1N1 vaccine wil be produced and distributed. But it does affect the way medical centers are able to treat patients.

The declaration loosens some federal regulations regarding patient privacy, access to care, and the movement of patients from one facility to another.

Leaders at Legacy Health System have been discussing emergency treatment options for some time. They met Monday to make potential plans that the declaration allows.

"It allows hospitals, nursing homes all kinds of medical facilities all kinds of alternatives to deal with what could be burgeoning patient loads", according to Brian Terrett, Legacy's Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications.

The tents that are set up outside Legacy Emmanuel and other medical centers are an example of what the declaration allows more easily: patient privacy regulations being eased means a triage center can be set up in a more public place like a parking lot.

The declaration could allow patient treatment centers in places as large as a warehouse or even Memorial Coliseum. For now, Legacy is looking at smaller venues. A corner building next to Good Samaritan Hospital has a vacancy; the former FedEx Kinkos could become an H1N1 patient center under the emergency declaration, if Legacy decides it needs it. For now, it doesn't.

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