President Declares 2009 H1N1 Pandemic a National Emergency

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The American Nurses Association (ANA) received the following information from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

On October 24, 2009, President Obama declared that the pandemic caused by 2009 H1N1 was a national emergency. This declaration allows hospitals and other health care facilities some ability to work around regulatory requirements (such as reporting requirements for reimbursement) that are part of certain federal laws and programs. The declaration specifically waives certain requirements that are part of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

H1N1 is spreading rapidly, and is currently causing widespread illness in almost every state in the country. This has put a lot of strain on an already strained health care system, and the declaration is an attempt to allow facilities a little breathing room to treat the large number of people seeking care at one time. It does not indicate the severity of the pandemic has changed, or that the government is going to drastically change the way it is responding to the pandemic.

Nurses should understand how this declaration may affect the way they deliver patient care. See below for more information on the H1N1 outbreak.