Pandemic Panic: Will They Come to Work?

Updated: Apr 27

Coronavirus: You may be prepared, but are you ready?



On September 10, 2019, I kicked off the 11th Annual Fleming Infection Prevention and Infectious Disease Symposium with a pandemic "tabletop" exercise. The exercise was based on my experience leading the Lehigh Valley Health Network H1N1 response and my emergency preparedness work at the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.


Unknowingly, we were just a few months from the animal-to-person spread of a novel respiratory virus in the densely populated city of Wuhan, China. Although the full clinical picture is not clear, global travel and person-to-person spread has created the makings of a possible pandemic.


I recommend keeping up-to-date on the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


In the meantime, let me share a critical message from my presentation.


People Run Hospitals


Qureshi and collaborators published the results of a survey of 6,428 healthcare workers from 47 NYC/metro healthcare facilities regarding their ability and willingness to work during an event:

Qureshi et al, J Urban Health. 2005 Sep; 82(3): 378–388


The key learnings from this survey indicate that even if healthcare workers are able to work during a pandemic, personal factors may reduce their willingness to work. These include fear and concern for self and family, personal health issues, and commitments to provide care to children or elderly family members.


The CDC has provided the “Interim U.S. Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Healthcare Personnel with Potential Exposure in a Healthcare Setting to Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” which establishes exposure and work exclusion criteria. This guidance may further exacerbate workforce shortages.


Healthcare business continuity does not just rely on doctors and nurses


If only 48.4% of your TOTAL workforce shows up tomorrow...who will?

  1. Clean patient rooms and ORs

  2. Sterilize equipment

  3. Stock supply rooms

  4. Provide security

  5. Cook meals



Become the trusted source


During this time of uncertainty, it's important for leaders to provide reliable, timely, and accurate information to your workforce. Communicate frequently utilizing trusted public health sources and rational experts.


I am happy to share the published copy of this presentation from the symposium to assist in your readiness.


....even if healthcare workers are able to work during a pandemic, personal factors may reduce their willingness to work...

There will be more to come.


If you or your organization has questions, please contact me.