Roche CEO Urges Corporate Pandemic Preparedness

Corporate Responsibility is Critical in the Face of a Potential Public Health Crisis

BOSTON, June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- In response to the U.S. government's comprehensive plan requiring public and private businesses to share responsibility with state and local governments in preparing to respond to a potential flu pandemic, George Abercrombie, president and chief executive officer of Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., discussed a 5-step action plan that employers can implement now to improve corporate readiness. Abercrombie offered these remarks to nearly 150 Boston-area business leaders at the CEO Breakfast Forum hosted by Northeastern University.

"The threat of a global pandemic is very real," Abercrombie said, "and world governments, global health authorities and multinational companies ... need to be prepared for this potential global public health crisis. 'When,' 'How severe' and 'Will we be prepared when a pandemic hits,' are the important questions."

A recent poll by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in Washington, D.C., found that 66 percent of U.S. companies believe a pandemic will seriously disrupt their operations; yet only 20 percent of businesses are in good position in terms of being able to effectively react.

One area employer, Northeastern University, is already taking action.

"Northeastern, like many large universities, recognizes the significance of this issue and is taking steps to ensure preparedness on a variety of levels," University President Richard Freeland said. "Mr. Abercrombie's insights on corporate pandemic preparedness are relevant and valuable to corporations, universities and other organizations around the country and the globe."

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. Looking for alternative solutions such as telecommuting may help to close these employee shortage gaps. According to Abercrombie, potential solutions and plans must be put in place now.

"Planning for a pandemic is fundamentally different than planning for a hurricane of short-lived natural disaster," Abercrombie said. "We have to think in ways we've never thought before about protecting our employees and keeping the critical components of our business running."

Citing research published by HR Magazine, the publication of the Society for Human Resource Management, Abercrombie recommended that businesses protect employees, help their communities and maintain business operations in the wake of a potential pandemic by following these five steps:

1. Create a pandemic response plan and assemble a pandemic planning team. Include representatives from human resources, business continuity, public affairs, environmental health, security, IT and any business areas vital to your operations. 2. Communicate company plans to employees now to help reassure them. 3. Plan for absenteeism. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, employers should expect an absenteeism rate of up to 40 percent in the middle of a severe pandemic, so plan accordingly. Keep employees well by emphasizing hygiene, sending ill workers home and paying close attention to housekeeping matters. 4. Stockpile basic supplies needed to operate. 5. Develop a plan to inoculate or treat employees with approved vaccines and antivirals. Answer fundamental questions in advance, such as: -- Which employees must be available to keep the core part of your business running? -- How will you service customers? -- How will you ship your products? -- How will you get raw ingredients?

About Roche

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, the Roche Group 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 2005, Roche was named one of Fortune magazine's Best Companies to Work For in America, one of the Top 20 Employers (Science magazine), ranked as the No. 3 Best Company to Work For in NJ (NJ Biz magazine), the No. 1 Company to Sell For (Selling Power), and one of AARP's Top Companies for Older Workers. For additional information about the U.S. pharmaceuticals business, visit our websites: or .

Source: Roche

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