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Emergency Planning and Preparedness

Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic 2013 - Frequently Asked Questions

What's new in the 2013 Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic?

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care updated the Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic (OHPIP) to reflect the lessons learned and best practices from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic (pH1N1). The updated document is the 2013 OHPIP.

Earlier versions of the OHPIP were preparedness guides, describing the steps that provincial health system partners should take to prepare for an influenza pandemic. The 2013 version is a response plan, describing the roles and responsibilities of provincial health system partners in an influenza pandemic, as well as outlining anticipated response activities based on the severity of the pandemic and other factors.

Prior to pH1N1, the 2008 OHPIP included detailed guidance on emergency preparedness. The new 2013 plan identifies an appropriate response to seasonal influenza each year as the best way to be prepared to respond to an influenza pandemic. The 2013 OHPIP also outlines continuity of operations plans as an important way for provincial health system partners to prepare for any emergency, including an influenza pandemic.

Previous versions of the OHPIP were based on the assumption that the next influenza pandemic would be moderate. The 2013 OHPIP is a scalable plan. It provides a range of strategies that could be used to respond to different severity scenarios. The scenarios include the period before the severity of the pandemic is known, as well as scenarios ranging from low transmissibility/ low clinical severity to high transmissibility/ high clinical severity.

How was the 2013 Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic developed? Who was involved?

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care developed the 2013 OHPIP in close collaboration with Public Health Ontario, the Ministry of Labour and other partners from across the health system, including health associations, unions, regulatory bodies and other government organizations. For a list of the organizations that contributed to the 2013 OHPIP, see Appendix A of Chapter 1: Introduction.

As part of the OHPIP development process, the ministry worked with its health system partners to review the lessons learned and best practices from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, as well as the latest scientific and technical evidence on influenza and emergency management.

In the previous version of the OHPIP there was a chapter for my health subsector. However, I no longer see my subsector reflected in the 2013 OHPIP. Does this mean that there is no information in the OHPIP relevant to my organization?

Rather than focusing on guidance for specific subsectors, the 2013 OHPIP includes updated guidance that applies to all subsectors of the health system. These are the foundational chapters on health sector communications, surveillance, occupational health & safety and infection prevention & control, public health measures, outpatient care and treatment, and immunization.

The Ontario Influenza Response Plan (OIRP), which will eventually replace the OHPIP, will address subsector-specific guidelines. In the meantime, health workers and health sector employers are encouraged to review the foundational chapters that relate to all subsectors of the health system. All health organizations can take steps to develop continuity of operations plans that will ensure their readiness for any type of emergency, including an influenza pandemic.

Does the 2013 OHPIP address all of the recommendations from the response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic?

The OHPIP incorporates most of the lessons learned and best practices documented in two reports that evaluated Ontario's response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic: Pandemic (H1N1) 2009: A Review of Ontario's Response and The H1N1 Pandemic – How Ontario Fared: A Report by Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Some of the recommendations from these reports are not specific to the management of influenza pandemics. The ministry is addressing these recommendations by other means, such as the Ministry Emergency Response Plan and by enhancing the health system's capacity, identifying new roles and responsibilities and improving the health system's response to seasonal influenza.

What steps does my organization need to take to prepare for an influenza pandemic?

The 2013 OHPIP includes Preparedness Tip Boxes that provide guidance on preparedness actions for health system partners.

The OHPIP identifies continuity of operations planning as an important task for health organizations. Continuity of operations plans support the response to any type of emergency, including an influenza pandemic.

Developing appropriate responses to seasonal influenza is also seen as a critical way to prepare for an influenza pandemic. For example, the OHPIP includes a Preparedness Tip Box that encourages health care providers to participate in annual surveillance activities such as the Sentinel Vaccine Effectiveness study and Flu Watch. Another Preparedness Tip Box encourages health sector employers to take steps to ensure that health workers have a solid understanding of occupational health and safety and infection prevention and control practices at all times.

Is the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care still recommending that health sector employers stockpile supplies & equipment in the event of an influenza pandemic?

The ministry continues to recommend that health sector employers stockpile infection prevention and control (IPAC) supplies and equipment to ensure continuity of operations during an influenza pandemic. The ministry also maintains a stockpile of IPAC supplies and equipment. Together, the ministry's and health organizations' stockpiles ensure the health system has continued access to these important resources during a communicable disease emergency, such as an influenza pandemic.

Chapter 5: Occupational Health & Safety and Infection Prevention & Control includes a Preparedness Tip Box with additional information on the ministry's stockpiling recommendation.

Why is the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care transitioning the OHPIP into a plan that can be used to respond to any influenza outbreak?

One of the best ways to prepare for the next influenza pandemic is by improving the response to seasonal influenza each year. For example, good surveillance systems for seasonal influenza not only enhance the health system's capacity to respond to an influenza pandemic, but also help to build historical information that can be used to evaluate the severity of future influenza outbreaks.

Ontario's seasonal influenza response will benefit from what we have learned from preparing for and responding to an influenza pandemic.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will lead a process to develop the Ontario Influenza Response Plan (OIRP), which will eventually replace the 2013 OHPIP. Through this new plan, the provincial health system's focus will shift from preparing for an influenza pandemic to continuing to build effective seasonal influenza responses and escalating those measures, if needed, during an influenza pandemic. This will reduce the impact of this reoccurring annual infectious disease at the same time as ensuring the health system is well prepared for more severe outbreaks of influenza.

Does the OHPIP align with response plans from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization?

Previous versions of the OHPIP have used World Health Organization (WHO) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) response plans as a conceptual foundation. At this time, these influenza pandemic response plans are in the process of being revised based on the lessons learned and best practices from 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.

 

For More Information

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
Health System Emergency Management Branch
1075 Bay Street, Suite 810
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5S 2B1
Fax : 416-212-4466
TTY : 1-800-387-5559
E-mail : emergencymanagement.moh@ontario.ca

 

Health workers and health sector employers can call the Healthcare Provider Hotline for more information
Toll free : 1-866-212-2272

CritiCall Ontario provides a 24 hour call centre for hospitals to contact on-call specialists; arrange for appropriate hospital bed access and facilitate urgent triage for patients
1-800-668-4357