Abstract

The 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, generated a great deal of attention around the ability of Canada's health system to respond to a health crisis. This event underscored a very serious reality - on the whole, Canada's health system was not prepared to quickly and efficiently deal with a health emergency. This reality was particularly clear in Canada's largest city, Toronto, as the hospital system was not able to contain the outbreak. Armed with little knowledge of the nature of the threat or epidemiology of the disease, the health system was overwhelmed with how to deal with this crisis. Perhaps of greatest concern, however, was the inability to provide accurate and timely information to health institutions, healthcare workers and the public regarding the appropriate procedures and precautions to ensure optimal safety for all persons and control the spread of disease. This paper makes the case that the integration of occupational health and safety into pandemic planning is key to its success.