The H1N1 Debacle of 2009 – Five Years on – Lessons Learned?

In 2009, we wrote a series of articles for the Washington Examiner about the waves of H1N1 spreading across the country and the Public Healthcare System’s lack of preparedness. The following is a summary of the articles along with links to the originals.

“Success griefhas many fathers and Failure is an orphan”

Not so in the case of today’s H1N1 calamity. Poly-Patria of the stark failures to protect a trusting public from known existential threats comes from all quarters of Federal government. State and Local governments have followed Federal lead. Public health and healthcare sectors have turned a blind eye to evidenced-based information on existing hazards. Healthcare professional and trade organizations joined the collective apathy and denial with their advisors positing the theme which we discussed in an earlier article described by one legal expert “As one where if I do my best and create a strong plan, it may become a legal risk against me so it is best to hunker down and let events unfold. That may be the best legal protection available to me.” This cavalier and disdainful attitude toward meaningful protection for a vulnerable public can only exist in a grossly dysfunctional oversight environment. It thrives on an active and passive enabling structure which stretches from Congress to the lowest level of regulatory enforcement.  The birthing process of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was accompanied by a long and painful labor. One of the congenital anomalies was a frail and undernourished Health Affairs function. Much of the care and feeding of this function was transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in the hope that it would survive under the watchful eye of healthcare domain experts. The tragic healthcare failure of preparedness and response to Katrina/Rita/New Orleans sent the healthcare planners back to planning table. The multiple Congressional laws and DHS initiatives designed to mitigate future threats have done little to mobilize the healthcare industry.  Bio HazardLast year in our lecture series on healthcare readiness we surfaced the many gaps in the all-hazards readiness “DHS Hand-Off Of The Public Health and Healthcare Sector To A New Administration (of either party)-What is There To Hand-Off?” Our focus was on WMD non-state terrorist attacks and a perceived “window of opportunity” which a hand-off period presented to those who would do us harm. Those were legitimate concerns, however a deeper look into the reality of a Pandemic Flu event sparked our interest in H1N1, which has been the topic of several articles over the past two months as we tried to understand how calamities happen. These include the following: