The federal government is targeting small and medium businesses with a nearly $1-million program for H1N1 flu virus pandemic planning.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced in Ottawa yesterday the federal government would provide $926,000 in funding to help small and medium businesses develop a plan in the event of labour shortages due to influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu, during this flu season.

“While many large companies have begun to address business continuity issues during a pandemic, most small and medium businesses do not have plans in place,” she said.

The program will be developed by the International Centre for Infectious Disease, a Winnipeg-based not-for-profit organization that focuses on applying new technologies to fight infections worldwide.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, said pandemic planning is something small businesses should be able to develop fairly easily, but every business is a little different.

One of the important things to overcome is the stubborn North American work ethic of sick people dragging themselves to work.

“Looking at alternative ways to work, if they are well enough to work, is an important part of the plan,” he said.

Aglukkaq also chastised opposition health critics for playing politics with H1N1 and calling a special summer session of the House of Commons health committee yesterday afternoon.

“It’s disappointing that some of these questions couldn’t have been raised through our weekly briefings with opposition critics,” she said.

“We have gone above and beyond what is normally done,” she said, adding that she has held 22 technical briefings for opposition MPs so far.

Winnipeg North New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis said the briefings are “no substitute” for a real exchange of ideas with parliamentarians.

Aglukkaq said the impact of the virus is decreasing, with fewer people visiting doctors and a decrease in the number of outbreaks reported.

There have been 64 H1N1-linked deaths in Canada.


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