Pandemic Flu a Threat but Few Prepared
Deloitte, ERIC Survey Finds Concern, Uncertainty Among U.S. Employers
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. companies view an influenza pandemic as a real threat to the nation, but two-thirds believe they have inadequately planned to protect themselves in the event of an outbreak, according to a survey released today by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and The ERISA Industry Committee.
Conducted in the weeks after the federal government released the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, the survey of U.S. employers was presented at a roundtable discussion on business preparedness sponsored by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. The survey found that:
-- 66 percent of respondents said their company had not adequately planned to protect itself from a pandemic flu outbreak, while 14 percent said they had adequately planned, and 20 percent were undecided.
-- 58 percent said they are not confident their company is prepared to manage a pandemic flu outbreak, while 18 percent said they are confident they are prepared, and 24 percent were undecided.
-- 73 percent said their company could use help understanding what it should do to plan for a pandemic flu outbreak, while 14 percent said they did not need help, and 13 percent were undecided.
-- 39 percent believed there wasn't much a company could do to prepare itself for a pandemic flu outbreak, while 41 percent disagreed with that statement, and 20 percent were undecided.
"American businesses are beginning to recognize that a pandemic flu outbreak would present a clear and present danger to their employees, their operations and their bottom lines," said Tommy G. Thompson, the independent chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. "All segments of society have a role to play in making sure we are prepared to cope with a pandemic flu or any public health emergency, and that includes the business community."
"Major employers are concerned at the destructive potential of disasters and pandemics, and want to protect their workers," said Edwina Rogers, Vice President for Health Policy of The ERISA Industry Committee. "If the private sector experiences that kind of crisis without proper planning, there could be major implications for the U.S. economy."
While respondents to the survey believed their company is concerned and that a pandemic would be a threat to the nation as a whole, they were less certain that it would adversely affect their business:
-- 57 percent of companies surveyed believe a pandemic flu presents a real threat to the United States, while 9 percent disagreed, and 34 percent were undecided.
-- 43 percent said their company is very concerned about a pandemic flu outbreak, while 25 percent said they weren't very concerned, 31 percent were undecided.
-- 40 percent said there is a high probability that a pandemic flu outbreak would adversely affect their business, while 17 percent said it would not, and 43 percent were undecided.
When asked about potential options for coping with pandemic flu, 60 percent agreed that allowing employees to telecommute would be one effective way to address an outbreak, 11 percent disagreed and 29 percent were undecided. Companies also were largely undecided on whether they would waive sick leave restrictions in order to encourage sick employees to stay at home. Sixty-three percent said they were undecided, 27 percent said they would waive the restrictions and 10 percent said they would not.
A pandemic influenza is a global outbreak of the flu that occurs when a new virus emerges for which there is little immunity among humans. In the 20th century, there were three pandemics: 1918 (500,000 deaths in the United States, and up to 2 million deaths worldwide), and 1968 (34,000 deaths in the United States, and 700,000 deaths worldwide).
The survey was conducted Nov. 14-23. Results were presented on December 2 at a roundtable at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in Washington, D.C.
Next week, the government will release a checklist of pandemic preparations that companies should take. We'll post the checklist from the government here, and add our own thoughts.
Also, Gill Advisors Inc. will be offering a free webcast here with Streamlogics on the subject of telework, with contributions by the GSA, the General Services Administration of the U.S. Government.