Nova Scotia ready for swine flu, committee told

Nova Scotia's top pandemic planners say the province is ready to tackle the second wave of swine flu.

Nova Scotia's top pandemic planners say the province is ready to tackle the second wave of swine flu.

Several senior bureaucrats appeared before an all-party committee of the legislature Wednesday to give an update on the province's H1N1 preparations.

"Nova Scotians should feel confident in the ability of our health-care professionals and the health system to respond to the current pandemic," said Kevin McNamara, deputy minister of health.

In July, Auditor General Jacques Lapointe questioned the province's readiness to deal with the H1N1 influenza threat.

He made dozens of recommendations after finding that a lack of leadership had led to an inadequate stockpile of medical supplies to protect health-care workers and respond effectively to the pandemic.

Stock is growing

McNamara said the stockpile of surgical masks, gloves and ventilators is growing.

"Those are either in place or will be in place by November," he said.

The province has spent $10.8 million so far on pandemic planning, and the mass vaccination program is nearly ready to go, the public accounts committee was told.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief public health officer, said 4,000 retired nurses could be lured back into service to help out.

As for hospitals, McNamara said there are plans for a triage system that could see patients transferred to different centres based on where a bed is available.

Seniors who are currently in a hospital bed could be sent home with extra help, or extra rooms opened in nursing homes to temporarily meet the demand.

Health officials have said that one in three Nova Scotians may contract the flu. There have been more than 400 confirmed cases so far and one woman has died.

Another pandemic planner appearing before the committee Wednesday expressed frustration with the auditor general's  criticism.

Duff Montgomerie, deputy minister of health promotion and protection, said it was like criticizing a football team in the middle of the Superbowl game about a plan that was struck months earlier.

"You train for the Superbowl and suddenly you're in the Superbowl and everything changes because the other team is trying to beat you. They're going to do everything they can, change their approach and so on, so you have to adjust as a coach," he told the committee.

Montgomerie said the province is dealing with the pandemic properly.