Many Urban Hospitals Require Increased Capacity To Prepare for Bioterrorist Attack, GAO Report Finds
Although some urban hospitals have begun preparations for a bioterrorist attack, many of them have not conducted drills and lack the necessary equipment to respond to a potential attack, according to a General Accounting Office report released Wednesday, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The report is based on responses a to 2002 survey sent to 2,041 urban hospitals; 73% of the facilities responded to the survey (Meckler, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/8). About 80% of facilities that responded to the survey said they had written emergency response plans that addressed bioterrorism preparedness. However, the GAO report says that many of the plans lacked some key contacts, including other laboratories. Nearly all hospitals said they participated in a local, state or regional interagency disaster preparedness committee. In addition, most hospitals said they at least partly trained their personnel to identify and diagnose diseases resulting from biological agents. However, less than 50% of hospitals said they had conducted preparedness drills. Further, about half of hospitals reported having a sufficient number of ventilators to treat respiratory ailments in patients who had been exposed to anthrax or botulism (GAO Highlights, August 2003). According to the GAO report, fully meeting staffing and equipment requirements "could be extremely difficult because bioterrorism preparedness is expensive and hospitals are reluctant to create capacity that is not needed on a routine basis and may never be used." The American Hospital Association said it "generally" agrees with the report's findings, the AP/Sun reports (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/6). The report, GAO-03-924, is available online.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.