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Federal Blue Ribbon Panel on Biodefense Features Hospital Preparedness, Highlights PA’s Coordinated Preparedness

July 31, 2018

In testimony before today’s meeting of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D, PA) spoke about his efforts to reauthorize the hospital preparedness program and pointed to Pennsylvania as a leader in adopting a coordinated regional approach to preparedness.

Sen. Casey offered Congressional perspectives—in particular, discussing ongoing work to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA)—during today’s meeting, which was titled “The Cost of Resilience: Impact of Large-Scale Biological Events on Business, Finance and the Economy.”

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced bipartisan legislation championed by Senators Casey and Richard Burr (R, NC) in late May. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPAI) of 2018, S. 2852, reauthorizes the Hospital Preparedness Program for five years. The bill also would develop regional health care emergency preparedness and response systems.

The U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee has also approved PAHPAI legislation—H.R. 6378, as amended—that provides a five year reauthorization. 

In comments before the today’s panel, Sen. Casey highlighted that one of the core challenges in supporting preparedness is ensuring adequate resources are dedicated to hospital preparedness. He expressed the importance of not only providing a new and continuing authorization, but ensuring that needed funding is appropriated. He noted that the Hospital Preparedness Program “hasn’t been funded nearly at the level it should be; it has been cut dramatically over time.” It provides crucial resources to:

  • Enhance planning and response
  • Integrate public and private sector emergency planning to increase the preparedness, response, and surge capacity of hospitals
  • Improve state and local infrastructures that help health systems and hospitals prepare for public health emergencies

Sen. Casey also spoke about the importance of coordination in order to most efficiently manage capacity and response efforts. Consistent with the regional response system that would be authorized under the PAHPAI and is being pursued by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Pennsylvania employs a regional preparedness network and hub-and-spoke strategy that maximizes the resources and capabilities of eight major hubs across the Commonwealth in order to effectively deploy health care assets. 

Pennsylvania’s coordinated preparedness efforts have been recognized as a national model and demonstrate the innovative public-private partnerships necessary to be positioned to address public health threats and promote health care delivery system readiness.

The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense is a privately funded entity, established in 2014, which calls upon expertise from current and former Members of Congress, former Administration officials, state and local representatives, thought leaders, and other experts to consider our biodefense efforts and issues policy recommendations.

Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and former U.S. Congressman Jim Greenwood (PA-08) both serve on the Blue Ribbon Study Panel, providing expertise through their roles as former elected officials, Governor Ridge’s leadership as secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Congressman Greenwood’s position as president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.

In 2015, the panel issued A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts which included specific recommendations to increase support to hospitals in order to elevate our nation’s biodefense capabilities.

Questions may be addressed to Michael Consuelos, MD, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration, or Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.

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