Planning for a pandemic: Resources for the Church in case of Avian flu is available from the Episcopal Church. I will try to find similar plans, if they exist, from the Orthodox, Moravian, and other churches. Please suggest contacts for these plans in the comments below. Some plans already exist for the other great pandemic we face, HIV/AIDS.

While each church (or synogogue or other religious community) will have its own particular focus, the ethical questions will probably be similar. Even if one isn’t in a religious community, the ethics of pandemic and disaster planning must be addressed. (Remember, Katrina was no Girl Scout).

Other questions to consider:
who cares for the orphans? (see previous, | history |)
can burials be delayed?
are ministers equipped for post-traumatic counselling?

The Rev. Phillip Cato, a retired priest long associated with the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Child Health and Development… gathered Jay Lozier, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist / hematologist; Anne Dolbier, a professional in disaster planning with a master’s degree in public health; and Dawn Hohl, a registered nurse at Johns Hopkins who is in charge of care for discharged patients. Together they prepared a comprehensive plan for use by parishes and dioceses, as well as individual families.

“Pandemic Influenza Planning,” a 28-page report including a PowerPoint presentation and a list of resources and appendices, is available from Cato phillipcato AT yahoo DOT com or Richard Olsen, disaster planner with Episcopal Relief and Development rohlsen AT episcopalchurch DOT org.

….Parish planning

If a pandemic influenza event occurs, it will require an immediate, highly coordinated parish response. The communication plan and chain of command will need to be established and disseminated prior to an outbreak.

It is important to have redundant modes of communication, as phone and email systems may initially be over-taxed in the event of an emergency. Prior to a flu outbreak, a thorough system of communication with each communicant should be established with special consideration given to the needs of homebound parishioners who have limited communication and support systems. In the event of a full pandemic flu, the nation’s infrastructure may be jeopardized. Homebound individuals are at risk of not receiving basic services (e.g., electricity, groceries), and may have particular need for support and communication.

The vestry will need to recruit a cadre of volunteers to perform identified functions for these individuals (e.g., shopping, delivery, and other defined tasks).

The focus of educational efforts should be on open, honest communication with staff and parishioners, emphasizing the importance of preparedness. Education and training activities should be as low-key and reassuring as is practical. ..

The community at large should be invited to participate in any available education, with consideration given to possible cultural and linguistic differences. Sample educational materials are included in appendices.

When flu is active within the community, the focus of education must shift to communication of practical issues such as what services are available through the church and community, how to access these services, re-prioritization of resources, how to physically care for flu patients at home and death/dying support.

Ethical concerns

In the midst of a pandemic, ethical concerns abound. Most immediately, these will appear around the issues of allocation of scarce resources. Consider the following questions:

* Who will receive scarce vaccines and medications? At least initially, these will be in limited supply.
* Who will have access to medical facilities, respiratory support, nursing care, physician assistance, and in what order? For example, the local hospital may have ten intensive care unit beds available, but 100 patients needing full ventilator support along with the attendant medical care. How will the decision be made as to who gets the beds and care?
* Who will receive ministry from the church, and who from the church will be willing to minister?
* Will financial resources and political power confer unfair advantages?
* How can personal rights be rightly exercised in a situation of quarantine?
* What impact will isolation and quarantine (and even social-distancing) measures have on families and communities?
* Does the church have a moral or spiritual obligation to allow its facilities to be used for overflow health care and/or morgue use?
* What is the parish’s obligation to nearby but unaffiliated neighbors?

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