Posted on: May 25, 2023
Island Health has recently updated its Emerging Pathogen and Pandemic Plan (EPPP). The purpose of this plan is to create a comprehensive, coordinated approach to managing infectious disease emergencies and ultimately aims to reduce severe illness and deaths. The plan is all-inclusive, function-based and structured using an Incident Management System based on learnings from COVID-19 and the impact that it had on areas such as Health Equity and Indigenous Health Care. This approach allows for plan implementation during any communicable disease emergency.
The new plan is based on the following learnings from COVID-19 and the ensuing issues that arose from it:
- Flexibility: Ensure, wherever possible, decisions during a pandemic are made in a way that does not preclude the ability to respond to emergent needs and change direction in the future.
- Collaboration: During a pandemic response, leaders must engage with stakeholders in meaningful ways to ensure that the insights gathered can inform actions.
- Health Equity: Underserved and equity-deserving populations are disproportionally impacted by pandemics and by associated public health restrictions. Protective measures such as public orders, isolation, disrupted employment or housing, and a lack of social supports, will present unintended barriers to individuals and communities.
- Provincial & Local Direction: Island Health will continue to support all Provincial-level directions (including Provincial Health Officer Orders) and the One Health System approach in BC while considering local epidemiology and appropriate preventative measures, which may include local Medical Health Officer Orders.
- Learning: Significant expertise was built up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Planning for future pandemic responses will demonstrate how Island Health is applying this wisdom across service areas.
“Island Health's new Emerging Pathogens and Pandemic Plan is a significant step forward in ensuring a coordinated and effective response to future pandemics," Dr. Reka Gustafson, Chief Medical Health Officer, Island Health. “The plan lays out clear principles and approaches that will guide future decision-making and response efforts. With input from the First Nations Health Authority and lessons learned from our ongoing battle with COVID-19, the EPPP will enable Island Health to respond quickly and effectively to new or variant pathogens. This is an exciting development for our organization and the communities we serve."
Key Focus Areas of this plan include:
Immunization Services, which are crucial in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, and they provide immunity to individuals and communities. Testing plays an essential role in early detection, containment and mitigation of infectious diseases. Case & Contact Management and Surveillance are important in identifying and isolating cases, as well as tracing contacts and reducing further spread of the disease.
Ambassadors are vital in educating and communicating with the public about public health measures and disease prevention. Therapeutics are necessary in treating individuals infected with the disease and reducing morbidity and mortality rates. Acute Care Capacity and Flow are essential in ensuring that health care systems can handle the influx of patients and provide adequate care to those in need.
Finally, Infection Prevention and Control measures are crucial in mitigating the spread of infectious diseases in healthcare settings and in the community. These key focus areas work together to provide a comprehensive and coordinated response to emerging pathogens and pandemics.
Each of the Key Focus Areas have created a short 'Playbook' to guide future action. Together these playbooks lay out suggested actions for Island Health to take, in conjunction with FNHA and Indigenous communities, when responding to emerging pathogens in a nascent pandemic situation.
Click here to read the plan in its entirety.