JCAHO to Begin Considering Bioterrorism Preparedness
Hospitals and other treatment centers will have to be prepared for terrorism and mass emergencies in order to continue being accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. JCAHO yesterday sent a 24-page advisory detailing emergency management standards issued in January and "lessons learned" from the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to the nearly 5,000 hospitals and 13,000 clinics, laboratories and nursing homes that it monitors and accredits. Beginning Jan. 1, JCAHO's monitoring staff will place a "special focus" on emergency preparedness when visiting accredited facilities, JCAHO President Dr. Dennis O'Leary said. Examiners will check whether the facilities have a list of FBI and CDC contacts; "specific decontamination plans" for bioterrorism victims; and awareness of alternative facilities to treat patients in the case of overcrowding, the advisory said. Failure to have a complete emergency plan in place could mean loss of accreditation and subsequently, loss of federal and managed care reimbursements, O'Leary said. However, O'Leary added that hospitals "would be given a certain amount of time to rectify" any deficiencies. Currently, "most" treatment facilities are not ready to handle a mass bioterrorism attack, O'Leary said. "We've got a lot more preparation for people to do before anyone should start reassuring people in this country that we're ready," O'Leary said. The necessary improvements will be expensive, the AP/Star Tribune reports. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the American Hospital Association asked the federal government for $11.3 billion to prepare for future terrorism attacks (Tanner, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/16).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.