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Hawaii health officials preparing for the worst

January 27, 2008
by Helen Altonn
Star Bulletin

Hawaii is well prepared for most disasters but likely is ill prepared for a catastrophic global disaster, says Toby Clairmont, director of emergency services for the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. He said the state would "do OK" in an influenza pandemic, "but not what we feel we need to do. We just don't have resources. The money is shrinking every year, but expectations of us are growing every year." Hawaii ranked among the top states in preparedness to respond to public health emergencies in a recent study by the research group Trust for America's Health. Clairmont said emergency equipment, supplies, portable hospital systems and disaster training have been expanded. "We've managed to capitalize on federal money, and the hospitals did $1.5 million in in-kind contributions to train people. "We expect to double hospital capacity in a pandemic," he said. "It would be astronomical, unprecedented in recent history." He said protective equipment, such as masks, booties, gloves and gowns, has been stocked for 50,000 health care workers because of a lesson learned during the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic.

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