By Michael D. Shear
Saturday, October 24, 2009; 12:17 PM
President Obama Saturday declared the H1N1 flu a national emergency, clearing the way for legal waivers to allow hospitals and doctors offices to better handle a surge of new patients.
The proclamation will grant Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius the power to authorize the waivers as individual medical facilities request them, officials said.
It says that Obama does “hereby find and proclaim that, given that the rapid increase in illness across the Nation may overburden health care resources and that the temporary waiver of certain standard Federal requirements may be warranted in order to enable U.S. health care facilities to implement emergency operations plans, the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in the United States constitutes a national emergency.”
White House officials played down the dramatic-sounding language, saying the president’s action was not prompted by a new assessment of the dangers posed to the public by the flu.
Instead, officials said the action provides greater flexibility for hospitals which may suddenly find themselves confronted with a surge of new patients as the virus sweeps through their communities.
“The H1N1 is moving rapidly, as expected. By the time regions or healthcare systems recognize they are becoming overburdened, they need to implement disaster plans quickly,” said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin.
The waivers authorized by the president’s actions still require individual requests by the hospitals, Cherlin said.
Full article on Washington Post.