Gregg, Kennedy Criticize Bioterrorism Preparedness Efforts
Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) on Thursday at a hearing of the committee praised bioterrorism preparedness efforts by the federal government but criticized the system used by HHS to distribute funds to hospitals and the lack of inter-jurisdictional plans to respond to an attack, CongressDaily reports. According to Gregg, HHS, which currently "sprinkles" an average of about $80,000 in bioterrorism preparedness funds to hospitals nationwide, should implement a "threat-based formula" to distribute the funds to facilities in areas that face the highest risk of an attack. Gregg also cited the lack of inter-jurisdictional plans to respond to a bioterrorist attack.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said that some hospitals have not received adequate bioterrorism preparedness funds. He cited Boston Medical Center, which has spent $2.7 million on bioterrorism preparedness but has received only $37,000 from the federal government. Kennedy said, "These are funds that are now being taken away from patient care."
In response, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said that HHS distributes bioterrorism preparedness funds to states, which decide whether hospitals receive the funds. Thompson said, "Do we have the authority to tell states, after we give them the money, that they should give it to Hospital A instead of Hospital B? No -- but I think we should." In addition, Thompson said that the federal government has made progress in some areas of bioterrorism preparedness, such as increased national stockpiles of smallpox and anthrax vaccines (Heil, CongressDaily, 7/22).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.