Un­set­tling news on dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL REPORT -

Ex­perts say the coun­try is still not as pre­pared for dis­as­ter as it should be 10 years af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001 at­tacks in New York and Washington. They say the coun­try’s health­care sys­tem has made sig­nif­i­cant strides in its pre­pared­ness for hur­ri­canes, acts of ter­ror and other dis­as­ters, but sig­nif­i­cant gaps re­main.

“Are we bet­ter off? Un­doubt­edly. Are we where we need to be? Not even close,” says Don­ald Don­ahue, un­til re­cently di­rec­tor of the health pol­icy and pre­pared­ness pro­gram at the Po­tomac In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Stud­ies, Ar­ling­ton, Va. The coun­try has yet to be tested in need­ing to care for a large num­ber of pa­tients in a short amount of time, and the sys­tem would likely fail that test, Don­ahue says. Fed­eral fund­ing for pub­lic-health pre­pared­ness and re­sponse ca­pa­bil­ity in fis­cal 2011 de­creases by $102.3 mil­lion, or 11%, to $824.4 mil­lion as part of the spend­ing plan for the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Other high­lights:

Health­care providers work to deal with the af­ter­ef­fects of the May 22 tor­nado in Jo­plin, Mo., which in­cludes the death of about 160 and the de­struc­tion of St. John’s Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter. Ex­ec­u­tives for St. John’s and its par­ent, Mercy, Ch­ester­field, Mo., vow to re­build, and set up op­er­a­tions in tem­po­rary fa­cil­i­ties. Com­peti­tor Free­man Health Sys­tem an­nounces ex­pan­sion plans in re­sponse to an in­flux of pa­tients later in the sum­mer.

Hur­ri­cane Irene causes havoc and un­ex­pected fi­nan­cial costs for hos­pi­tals along the East­ern Seaboard in Au­gust. The storm, which claims dozens of lives and devastates some com­mu­ni­ties, makes land­fall Aug. 27 in North Carolina as a hur­ri­cane and reaches New York City the next day as a trop­i­cal storm. Many hos­pi­tals empty out be­fore the storm, which largely spares New York City. Irene con­tin­ues north to Mas­sachusetts and Ver­mont, which ex­pe­ri­ences heavy flood­ing that even­tu­ally closes a men­tal hos­pi­tal, Ver­mont State Hos­pi­tal in Water­bury.

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