Many U.S. Hospitals Unprepared for SARS Outbreak, GAO Report Finds
As a result of emergency room overcrowding and shortages in laboratory personnel, other staff and equipment, many U.S. hospitals are unprepared to handle an outbreak of an infectious disease such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, according to a General Accounting Office report, the Wall Street Journal reports (Lueck/Middleton, Wall Street Journal, 5/8). The report, detailed yesterday in a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, analyzed capabilities in hospitals in seven U.S. cities. The GAO found that many hospitals do not have extra staff to deal with an outbreak, and few have the equipment, such as ventilators, needed to treat SARS patients, Knight Ridder/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. However, federal health officials, including CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, countered that hospitals could handle a sudden increase in patients and that the public health system is spending "billions of dollars" to address problems, Knight Ridder/Pioneer Press reports. (Borenstein, Knight Ridder/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 5/8). Last week, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson announced that the federal government has ordered 3,000 additional ventilators for the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, the U.S. government's supply of medical devices and drugs for a public health crisis (Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/30). Federal officials also have asked states to dedicate 500 extra hospital beds in regional facilities for emergency measures; states soon will be asked to increase that number to 1,000 (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 5/1). In related news, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today reports that the CDC's SARS investigation "has challenged the agency more dramatically than any event since the 2001 anthrax attacks" (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/8). The GAO report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.
The following broadcast programs reported on SARS:
- ABCNews' "Nightline": The program reports on several SARS-related issues (Donovan, "Nightline," ABCNews, 5/7). Complete ABCNews coverage of SARS is available online.
- CNN's "Larry King Live": Host Larry King will discuss SARS with Dr. Andrew Weil (King, "Larry King Live," CNN, 5/8). The full transcript of the program will be available online after the broadcast.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Dr. Stephen Ostroff of the CDC and Dr. Chan Wy Minh from the Hong Kong Department of Health (Knox, "All Things Considered," NPR, 5/7). The full segment is available in RealPlayer online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": NPR's Joe Palca provides an update on the infection rate of SARS in Hong Kong (Palca, "Morning Edition," NPR, 5/8). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer online. In addition, expanded NPR coverage of SARS is available online.
- PRI's "The World": Host Lisa Mullins interviews Christl Donnelly, epidemiologist at London's Imperial College (Mullins, "The World," PRI, 5/7). The full segment is available in Windows Media online.