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New Report Shows U.S. Health Care Infrastructure Underprepared for Emergencies and Disaster Events

March 21, 2018

A recent report by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security—“A Framework for Healthcare Disaster Resilience:  A View to the Future”—found that the United States’ current health care infrastructure is insufficient to handle a mass disaster. The report outlines four key types of disasters for which health care systems stand to become better prepared:

  • “Relatively small-scale mass injury/illness events,” such as tornadoes, transportation accidents, or smaller illness outbreaks
  • “Large-scale natural disasters,” such as hurricanes, widespread flooding, or moderately sized earthquakes
  • “Complex mass casualty events,” such as the Las Vegas shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, or the Ebola outbreak
  • “Catastrophic health events,” such as widespread or large-scale nuclear events, pandemics, or earthquakes

Influenced by events such as the September 11, 2001 attacks and hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the report advocates building communities and systems that not only are prepared for natural disasters and catastrophic events, but are resilient enough to recover and return to normalcy in a quicker amount of time. Additionally, the report posits that individuals who experience economic challenges have a greater need for health care services following a disaster event.

The report underscores the continued need for a hospital community that is prepared to handle a variety of emergent situations. This requires specific and coordinated hospital preparedness measures, as well as significant integration with governments, emergency services, and organizations that would be tasked with responding to an emergency in some way. These health care coalitions (HCC) are, the report asserts, essential to preparing for and responding to disasters.

The report provides a series of recommendations, including continued funding for hospital preparedness programs (HPP), additional disaster preparedness initiatives, and establishing a “series of interconnected, well-resourced specialty hospitals…to provide optimal care for complex disasters.” Such a network would connect smaller community hospitals and large medical networks, to assist in training, preparedness efforts, and response to disasters.

Pennsylvania’s HPP, which is facilitated by HAP’s emergency preparedness staff, have served as a national model for best practices in health care coordination emergent and disaster events. HAP’s emergency preparedness team has assisted the health care community (in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States) with coordination support for events, including:

  • Large-scale events, such as the Papal visit and the 2018 Super Bowl parade
  • Critical supply management, such as intravenous solution bag shortage
  • Illness events, such as active flu seasons and the Ebola outbreak
  • Casualty events, such as the Philadelphia-area Amtrak derailment
  • Weather events, such as Hurricanes Harvey and Maria

For more information about HAP’s emergency preparedness efforts, contact Mark Ross, acting statewide director, emergency preparedness. For information about how HAP’s emergency preparedness team can assist hospitals and health care facilities with custom preparedness plans, contact Courtney Stoner, HAPevolve’s director, business development.

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