As the Bush administration entered its final months in office, its Occupation Safety and Health Administration examined whether hospitals were prepared to protect frontline doctors and nurses in the event of a catastrophic viral pandemic.
The nation was four years removed from the scare of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and two years removed from the creation of a national pandemic plan designed to heighten awareness and preparedness.
What OSHA found was not only alarming, but prescient to the crisis America now endures in 2020.
“It is expected that there will be a worldwide shortage of respirators if and when a pandemic occurs. Employers and employees should not count on obtaining any additional protective equipment not already purchased and stockpiled,” OSHA warned in a report.
OSHA’s warning to stockpile was not an isolated event. A Just the News review found more than a dozen government investigations, congressional reports and pandemic preparedness reviews dating to the 1990s warned that America’s health care system was woefully unprepared for a fast-moving outbreak.
But the pleas of stockpiles, better training, better coordination and more testing of potential remedies fell on the deaf ears of policymakers, congressional overseers and hospital administrators and the chronic inertia in Washington, according to experts who raised the alarm.