At the Annual Assembly in the session on Pandemic Palliative Care we discussed the increasing recognition of the role that HPM physicians will be expected to play in a disaster or pandemic. We also discussed the inability of the US to effectively protect the public health with quarantine measures. The AMA News today emphasizes this point.

Obama Administration scraps plans to implement quarantine regulations.

USA Today (4/2, Young) reports, “The Obama Administration has quietly scrapped plans to enact sweeping new federal quarantine regulations that the” CDC “touted four years ago as critical to protecting Americans from dangerous diseases spread by travelers.” Under the proposed regulations, the federal government would have the authority “to detain sick airline passengers and those exposed to certain diseases” for “three business days.” In 2007, CDC Director Julie Gerberding “testified before Congress that the proposed regulations would improve the agency’s ability to identify exposed passengers quickly.” But, the regulations were withdrawn by HHS “after discussion across the government made it clear” that additional “revision and reconsideration is necessary,” according to CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson.

With no quarantine planning and no defined “duty to serve” as our Canadian colleagues have, how will we:

1) Effectively protect patients and healthcare workers from a deadly contagious disease,

2) Continue to care for the vulnerable HPM patients in our charge and still help palliate the symptoms of a large numbers of new dying patients, and

3) Ensure the availability of a healthcare workforce during and after such a disaster?

What this means is that we will each need to address these issues on a local level and push through the “deer-in-the-headlights” mind-numbing “lets think about something else” attitudes that are not serving us well, either locally or nationally.

Other thoughts?

Porter Storey MD