Statement of The Hospital & Healthsystem
Association of Pennsylvania
Before the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee
Regional Emergency Preparedness Manager
The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP)
October 23, 2014
Chairman Barrar, Chairman
Sainato, members of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness
Committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide comments regarding the commonwealth’s
preparedness to address health emergencies related to infectious diseases, such
My name is Mark Ross, regional
emergency preparedness manager, for The Hospital & Healthsystem Association
of Pennsylvania (HAP). HAP represents and advocates for the nearly 240 acute
and specialty care hospitals and health systems in Pennsylvania and the
patients they serve.
In my role as regional emergency preparedness manager for
southeastern Pennsylvania, I support hospitals and health systems as they
respond to a wide array of health emergencies.
testimony will focus on these main points:
hospital community is following the guidance of, and working with, local,
state, and national public health authorities to do everything possible to
prevent the possibility of an Ebola outbreak here or anywhere in the U.S.
have extensive expertise and experience in treating serious infectious diseases.
staff are trained and prepared to identify, protect against, isolate, and treat
an array of infectious and contagious diseases from influenza to anthrax and Ebola.
comes first in hospital preparations to address Ebola. The safety of hospital
patients, staff, volunteers, and the community at large is a hospital’s first
have been working together with government colleagues for more than a decade to
plan, train, exercise, and prepare for “all-hazards” emergencies, including
public health emergencies due to infectious diseases both from terrorism and
Hospitals Are Following Public Health
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the lead agency for the nation’s
response to the threat of Ebola. The Pennsylvania Department of Health is the
lead governmental agency for public health and infectious disease outbreaks, including
Ebola, in Pennsylvania.
HAP and Pennsylvania
hospitals have a long history of working with local, state, and federal agencies
to address public health problems. Hospitals continue to receive guidance from
key government entities via conference calls on how to identify potentially
contagious patients and implement procedures needed to keep the commonwealth
HAP, hospitals, and other stakeholders are working collaboratively to
make sure that Pennsylvania’s health care system is prepared to respond to
and recommendations from national, state, and local public health authorities
are evolving in response to the changing situation as hospitals care for
several health care workers who have become infected with Ebola on U.S. soil.
and the hospital community have been monitoring new public heath guidance as it
becomes available. We are making sure that hospitals have this guidance and are
implementing it, and we will continue to do so.
Hospitals Have Expertise and
Experience in Treating Serious Infectious Diseases
Pennsylvania hospitals prepare for all types
of emergencies every day in order to provide necessary care for their patients
and communities. Every hospital has plans, protocols, and appropriate supplies
and equipment in place to care for patients with an array of infectious
diseases including Ebola.
All clinical staff are trained in standard infection
control procedures as part of their educational curriculum prior to being employed
by a hospital. All clinicians must demonstrate their knowledge of these
procedures prior to being licensed to practice. Once they are employed by a
hospital, clinicians are provided additional training on an ongoing basis.
part of accreditation by The Joint Commission and other organizations, hospital
staff must complete annual safety training, which includes training in
infection control protocols.
Ebola is just one of a host of serious infectious
diseases hospitals must be prepared to identify and safely treat each and every
day. The list includes enterovirus-D68; middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus,
or MERS; and Chikungunya; as well as more common diseases such as meningitis, malaria,
Dengue fever, and influenza.
Working closely with local, state and federal
authorities, the hospital community has in the past effectively responded to
the emergence of new and serious infectious diseases, including H1N1, also
known as swine flu, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.
Are Ready to Detect, Protect Against, Isolate, and Treat Ebola
All hospitals are prepared to perform medical
screening of all patients seeking care, including those who may have an
infectious disease. This screening includes a brief medical history, detection
of any symptoms of illness and—with the emergence of Ebola—a travel history.
Hospitals have procedures in place to quickly
isolate any patients who are identified through this screening process and to
notify the appropriate public health authorities and CDC Rapid Response Team. Local
health departments, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health, and the
CDC have many guidance documents and other resources specific to Ebola.
For example, the CDC has provided a detailed
hospital checklist for Ebola preparedness. The checklist outlines specific clinical
steps for both screening and providing care to patients who are suspected to
have Ebola, along with all the actions hospitals should take to ensure that
their employees are prepared should an Ebola patient arrive at the hospital.
The newest CDC guidelines were issued this week.
Comes First in Hospital Preparations to Address Ebola
Hospitals and health systems are dedicated to
protecting the safety and health of their patients and visitors, staff,
volunteers, and community at large in all types of emergencies, including
serious infectious diseases such as Ebola. As stated, hospitals are
implementing national, state, and city recommendations regarding the most
effective, and safest, ways to detect, protect against, isolate, and treat
For example, hospitals are following current
guidance that hospital workers should wear personal protective equipment
whenever they come into contact with a patient who is suspected to have been
infected with the Ebola virus. These precautions are consistent with normal
practice standards and are the standard precautions health care workers use
whenever they are caring for any patient with any potentially infectious
The emergence of the Ebola virus in the U.S.,
the infection of several health care workers in Dallas who cared for an Ebola
patient there, and related media attention has served to heighten the awareness
of all hospitals and health care workers of the importance of following strict
infection control procedures.
Hospitals Are Prepared for Emergencies
of All Kinds
For more than a decade government, hospitals,
and other stakeholders have worked together to identify and prepare for the
many different types of emergencies that could impact local communities,
region, state, and nation.
This “all-hazards” approach to preparedness is a
recognized best practice and includes preparation for emergencies related to weather,
public health, and terrorist events. HAP and hospitals collaborate regularly
with all levels of government on this important work.
Further, we are committed to working with our
elected officials to play a leadership role in calming public fears, providing
timely, reliable, and factual information and minimizing the sensationalized
coverage that can cause unnecessary public panic.
Thank you again for convening this hearing to
consider this important issue. I would be happy to have any questions you may