Hospitals prepare for bird flu outbreak

PORTO’S HOSPITAL de S. João is putting the finishing touches to its contingency plan to respond to a potential outbreak of bird flu. Various preventative measures and treatment procedures are included in the plan, which will chart patients from their arrival at the emergency department until transfer to an in-patient ward. Support from outside specialists and retired doctors are also considered within the plan.

Hospital de S. João is one of four hospitals identified by the Direcção-Geral de Saúde as being on the frontline to fight an outbreak of bird flu. Curry Cabral and Estefânia Hospitals in Lisbon and Hospitais da Universidade de Coimbra being the other three.

According to a study carried out by the Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge, in the case of an outbreak occurring in Portugal, in 20 weeks, consultations would result in 46,600 hospitalisations of which 8,000 would relate to the Porto district. S. João is prepared to cater for between 200 and 300 admissions per week.

According to António Ferreira, director of Hospital de S. João, to finalise the plan the hospital is preparing for the worst possible scenarios and is taking into account restrictive measures for health technicians. Due to be presented in February, the plan contemplates all possible situations such as a person or a group of people arriving in Portugal from an Asian country with symptoms.

“We are able to avoid any type of contact with patients suffering from bird flu symptoms, when we receive them at our emergency unit, while at the same time assuring the protection of our medical staff,” confirmed António Ferreira.

Luís Nunes of the Hospital D. Estefânia has confirmed the contingency plan at his health unit has been drawn up for some time. Likewise, the Hospitais da Universidade de Coimbra are also prepared, with 15 beds reserved for any eventuality.

For his part, Pedro Canas Mendes of Curry Cabral guarantees that the hospital is ready to cope with situations within its limitations. “We have the capacity to admit 16 people at the same time in our respiratory illness unit and, in an extreme case, we have the possibility of using the pavilions available to us,” confirmed the president of the board, whose hospital will open a Protection 3 laboratory by the end of this year.