Friday, September 9, 2011

Are Our Hospitals Prepared for Disaster?

It isn't something that many like to bring up, but with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 this weekend, some critics worry that our health facilities haven’t done enough to secure themselves through those ten years. The threat that these critics bring up is an act of bio-terrorism. If there were an outbreak of anthrax, or any other highly contagious disease, as a result of a terrorist attack, would our hospitals be prepared to handle it?
A report issued Sept. 1 by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that significant public health improvements were made following the 2001 events.

Such improvements include developing clear emergency response plans, bolstering laboratory staffing and bio-testing capabilities, and implementing more effective disease surveillance systems in state health departments.

But during the past 10 years, the report says these efforts have been losing effectiveness, due largely to public health budget cuts. The cuts are leaving many departments across the country with too few staff members to adequately implement the measures.

This American Medical News article stresses that public health employees would be the first to recognize the signs of a large-scale bioterrorist attack, and recent budget cuts have drastically reduced their numbers. Further, critics point out that our health defenses have become too complacent, and that we will not be capable of defending a terrorist attack until after the attack has occurred.

A similar column does mention that, after 9/11, many emergency procedures were put in place, with the intention of preparing hospitals for any disaster. However, low staffing and funding mean that very few hospitals would actually be able to follow through with their plans, should anything occur.

For the sake of future safety, it is clear that something needs to change, but many experts are left questioning what that change could actually be.

Pam Argeris is a thought leader in the Healthcare Industry and possesses extensive, hands-on experience with CMS compliance, and multiple regulatory bodies such as NCQA, JACHO, and DOI. In her role at Merrill Corp., Pam focuses on developing solutions for compliance and quality assurance, delivered in a cost effective manner to improve beneficiary and prospect communications. You can contact Pam at

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