California Officials Outline Emergency Response Strategy
New guidelines for a statewide plan to deal with a massive disaster, bioterror attack or influenza pandemic focus on the need to suspend or flex established regulations and laws, as well as to ration health care, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The Department of Public Health issued the 1,900 page document as part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) 2006 health care surge initiative.
The "surge capacity guidelines" lay out the details of the practical and ethical groundwork for local and county health departments, hospitals, emergency responders and all able-bodied health care workers.
The guidelines aim to minimize bureaucracy and maximize survival rates in part by permitting health care providers to disregard rules on:
- Patient privacy protections;
- Nurse-to-patient ratios;
- Documenting birth, death, infectious disease outbreaks and medication errors; and
- Reporting suspected child or elder abuse.
The plan also emphasizes that treatment must not be based on patients' ability to pay for care, their perceived worth to society, or whether their past behaviors contributed to their health status.
The plan is being hailed as a model for the rest of the nation, the Bee reports.
Schwarzenegger's $172 million health surge initiative also stockpiles millions of doses of antiviral medications, thousands of ventilators, mobile field hospitals and extra hospital beds in case of such an emergency (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 3/2). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.