Recent experience with the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Canada and the global threat of the H5N1 virus (avian "flu") have increased the appetite for and urgency of pandemic planning as a policy issue. The healthcare setting is one of the most important areas to prepare for such an event, and it is crucial that discussions around doing so include all settings in which care is delivered. As the home and community care sector is increasingly utilized and likely to be relied upon even more during a pandemic, addressing the challenges to occupational health and safety uniquely faced by this sector will be vitally important to the entire health system. A pandemic plan that does not consider healthcare outside of the institutional setting is incomplete and will be likely to fail. This commentary outlines the challenges to providing care in the home and community that must be considered in any plan designed to deal with a pandemic on a system-wide level.
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