Purpose: To provide recommendations and standard operating procedures for intensive care units and hospital preparedness for an influenza pandemic.
Methods: Based on a literature review and expert opinion, a Delphi process was used to define the essential topics.
Results: Key recommendations include: Hospitals should increase their ICU beds to the maximal extent by expanding ICU capacity and expanding ICUs into other areas. Hospitals should have appropriate beds and monitors for these expansion areas. Establish a management system with control groups at facility, local, regional and/or national levels to exercise authority over resources. Establish a system of communication, coordination and collaboration between the ICU and key interface departments. A plan to access, coordinate and increase labor resources is required with a central inventory of all clinical and non-clinical staff. Delegate duties not within the usual scope of workers' practice. Ensure that adequate essential medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and supplies are available. Protect patients and staff with infection control practices and supporting occupational health policies. Maintain staff confidence with reassurance plans for legal protection and assistance. Have objective, ethical, transparent triage criteria that are applied equitably and publically disclosed. ICU triage of patients should be based on the likelihood for patients to benefit most or a 'first come, first served' basis. Develop protocols for safe performance of high-risk procedures. Train and educate staff.
Conclusions: Mortality, although inevitable during a severe influenza outbreak or disaster, can be reduced by adequate preparation.