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Preparing the Healthcare System for Catastrophic Emergencies

Brooke Courtney, Eric Toner, Richard Waldhorn
Date posted:
March 01, 2009
Publication type:

Biosecur Bioterror 2009;7(1):33-34

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Available on publisher's website

Hospitals are the backbone of the healthcare response to mass casualty events, and they will be critically important in the response to a catastrophic health event, such as an influenza pandemic, a bioterror or nuclear attack, a large-scale natural disaster, or other emergencies described in the National Planning Scenarios. And, in fact, the events of September 11 and the 2001 anthrax attacks underscored the importance of healthcare system preparedness for mass casualty and catastrophic emergencies. The HHS Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) was established in 2002 to enhance the ability of local hospitals and healthcare systems to prepare for and respond to bioterror attacks and other public health emergencies. Sixty-two entities— including all states, the District of Columbia, and the nation’s 3 largest cities— participate in the HPP and have received approximately $2 billion in HPP funding since 2002. While preparedness of individual hospitals has significantly improved since the program’s implementation, the nation’s healthcare system still remains largely underprepared to respond to large-scale catastrophic emergencies. The U.S. healthcare system is not now capable of responding effectively to a sudden influx of patients and the resulting demand for medical resources—staff, supplies, and space—that would occur during a catastrophic event.   There are number of developments, some of them already initiated, that would greatly improve the preparedness of the system for these large-scale events.  



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