ST. LOUIS, Sept. 18 George Abercrombie, president and chief executive officer, Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., told more than 100 St. Louis business leaders today at a Rotary Club of St. Louis luncheon that the threat of a pandemic flu presents businesses with challenges unlike those anticipated with traditional emergency preparedness plans.
"While businesses are all too familiar with preparing for potential disasters such as floods or tornadoes," according to Abercrombie, "local businesses also need to look at the special challenges posed by the potential of a public health crisis caused by a global influenza pandemic."
Abercrombie, who shared details of Roche's own plans to safeguard the health of its employees and business infrastructure during a pandemic flu outbreak, says that Missouri's key industry sectors, including finance and insurance; manufacturing; wholesale and retail trade; and construction would be among the hardest hit.
Last March, Trust for America's Health released a report (funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of the U.S. Pandemic Preparedness Initiative) estimating that Missouri could face a potential financial loss of $12.4 billion as a result of a severe pandemic flu outbreak.
"Influenza pandemics are not static events like a hurricane or tornado, nor are they confined to a specific area. Pandemics come in multiple waves, each one affecting a given area from four to twelve weeks. During the first wave, officials expect 20 to 30% of people will become ill. Here in St. Louis County, that's 200,102 to 300,153 people who will get very sick in a very short period of time, inundating emergency rooms already strained to near capacity."
According to Abercrombie, experts believe that many businesses and organizations would have difficulty maintaining operations as a result of an increased level of absenteeism due to illness, employees caring for the sick and social-distancing policies. In Missouri alone, there is the potential for more than 1.7 million employees to be absent from their jobs, according to the Trust for America's Health report, resulting in losses of roughly $5.5 billion dollars due to absenteeism and death.
Based on his experience in working with the federal government the past several years on pandemic preparedness, Abercrombie reminded the audience that the government has asked private businesses to share in the responsibility of planning. While the federal government has plans to help slow the spread of the virus among critical populations, such as healthcare workers and emergency personnel, it is up to local communities and businesses to ensure that residents and employees stay healthy and that businesses and local economies remain up and running.
More information on how businesses can organize their own pandemic plans is available online at www.pandemictoolkit.com. For more information about the Trust for America's Health, visit http://healthyamericans.org/reports/flurecession/releases/TN.pdf. (Due to the length of this URL, it may be necessary to copy and paste this hyperlink into your Internet browser's URL address field.)
Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. (Roche), based in Nutley, N.J., is the U.S. pharmaceuticals headquarters of the Roche Group, one of the world's leading research-oriented healthcare groups with core businesses in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. For more than 100 years in the U.S., Roche has been committed to developing innovative products and services that address prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, thus enhancing people's health and quality of life. An employer of choice, in 2007 Roche was named Top Company of the Year by Med Ad News, one of the Top 20 Employers (Science) and ranked the No. 1 Company to Sell For (Selling Power). In previous years, Roche has been named a