Report Cites Staffing Concerns in California Disaster Response Plan
The Health Officers Association of California has released the first-ever assessment of the state's emergency preparedness, concluding that more efforts need to be focused on building resources and staffing among local public health agencies, the Sacramento Bee reports.
According to the report, county and city public health departments in California have come a "long way" in preparedness since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. However, local health departments "have a thin line of public health staff to fulfill their missions," despite 428 new positions for emergency preparedness, the report states.
The report also noted that the public health work force is aging.
Mark Horton, director of the Department of Public Health, acknowledged that health departments must improve efforts to recruit young people.
Horton also noted that the state has helped local health departments with training exercises "to identify gaps (in preparedness) and close those gaps."
As federal funding for emergency preparedness decreases, the report warned that local health departments have concerns about sustaining previous funding levels.
Assembly member Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) argued that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration has failed to adequately manage the federal funds. De La Torre said, "The study makes me wonder why with all this money we still have staffing deficiencies and outdated facilities at the local level."
The governor vetoed legislation by De La Torre two years ago that would have required state or local agencies conducting preparedness exercises for an infectious disease outbreak to track what steps were being taken to fix any problems.
De La Torre said he plans to introduce a similar bill next year (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 12/7).