Hospital Preparedness Efforts Require Further Work
Hospitals and local governments since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have been working to improve disaster preparedness and better equip their facilities to handle large surges of patients, though for "all the progress in improving readiness, experts warn that there is still a long way to go," the Wall Street Journal reports.
Hospitals have been redesigning emergency facilities and adding equipment, such as decontamination showers; collaborating with local emergency and health care groups; and sharing what lessons they learned after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina.
Many hospitals and local governments, however, still are not adequately prepared to handle a large-scale catastrophe, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack, according to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine. The report says that many emergency departments are "so overcrowded in major cities that they can barely handle a multiple car crash, let alone mass casualties," the Journal reports.
IOM recommends that Congress significantly increase funding for first response programs and reauthorize 2002 legislation that created federal funding for state, local and hospital preparedness.
Through a CDC-funded pilot program called Project Public Health Ready, the National Association of County and City Health Officials has evaluated dozens of local health departments on their ability to respond to large-scale emergencies.
The group has asked CDC to expand the program nationwide, and, in the meantime, local health departments can begin working with neighborhoods to coordinate efforts and run training drills, NACCHO Executive Director Patrick Libbey said.
Experts say it also is important for communities to develop disaster-response plans based on the type of events that are most likely to occur in their region of the country(Landro, Wall Street Journal, 9/6).