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HAP Highlights Hospital Emergency Preparedness Partnership during Senate Informational Hearing

June 14, 2017

Today, HAP’s Tom Grace, vice president, emergency preparedness, provided lawmakers with an update about the important emergency preparedness work underway as a part of the commonwealth’s Hospital Preparedness Partnership Program between the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and HAP.

Grace’s testimony provided an overview of the DOH/HAP Hospital Preparedness Program Partnership that began in 2012 to promote and facilitate health care emergency preparedness among hospitals, specialty health care facilities, long-term care facilities, and community health centers throughout the commonwealth. The partnership also works to build a regional coalition approach to health care preparedness across the state.

Thomas L. Grace RN, PhD, testifies before a Joint Informational Hearing of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Emergency Preparedness Committee regarding the commonwealth’s Hospital Preparedness Partnership Program between the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP).

The DOH/HAP partnership has allowed HAP’s seven-person emergency preparedness team to engage with the commonwealth’s health care facilities by:

  • Making on-site visits
  • Supporting the review and update of facility, hazard vulnerability assessments, and emergency operations plans
  • Participating in planning and evaluation of their response to exercises and real events.

The information was provided during a joint informational hearing of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Emergency Preparedness Committee. Lawmakers in attendance included Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), Sen. Judith Schwank (D-Bucks), Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), and Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia),

“The HAP emergency preparedness team has supported facilities, communities, counties, regions, and statewide emergency response and management activities for the full array of emergencies and events experienced in the commonwealth,” said Grace. He noted that the each month, the HAP emergency preparedness team monitors more than 50 incidents that could affect health care facilities and provides follow-up as necessary.

Grace outlined his team’s coordinated hospital emergency preparedness efforts during Hurricane Sandy, the Ebola virus, and the Amtrak train derailment. He also shared that HAP’s emergency preparedness team also supported the planning and coordination of emergency services for a variety of special events, such as Little League World Series, NASCAR races, national golf tournaments, Democratic National Convention, NFL draft, and the Papal visit.

“For example,” said Grace, “During the 2015 visit to Philadelphia by Pope Francis, our team tracked 438 patients in the first aid stations, coordinated access to/from the 12 health care facilities isolated by security barriers, facilitated 78 patient transfers, delivered 179 orders of critical health supplies, assisted 98 patients in labor, and transported patients and organs for 19 transplants.”

Grace was joined by Ray Barishansky, Pennsylvania Department of Health’s deputy secretary for health planning & assessment, Matthew Linse, Saint Vincent Hospital’s prehospital care coordinator and emergency services liaison for the Northwest PA Health Care Coalition, and Richard Flinn, director of Pennsylvania Emergency Planning Agency. The individuals shared, from their perspectives, the success of current efforts as well as future challenges. Flinn shared that funding cuts are a major challenge to continue emergency preparedness.

Grace closed his comments by urging lawmakers to continue support for important hospital emergency preparedness as well as the specialized care and services provided by Pennsylvania hospitals in times of emergencies, such as those provided by trauma centers, burn centers, and critical access hospitals.

Lawmakers expressed their support for HAP’s emergency efforts and the DOH/HAP partnership, while acknowledging the challenges that they face. Sen. Baker echoed Grace’s testimony about the importance of adequate funding for Pennsylvania’s trauma and burn centers and critical access hospitals.

For more information about hospital emergency preparedness and the DOH/HAP partnership, contact Tom Grace, HAP’s vice president, emergency preparedness.

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