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HHS Releases Hospital Hazard-Readiness Stats

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 6, 2011

More than three of four hospitals in the National Hospital Preparedness Program met 90% or more of measures for all-hazards preparedness in 2009, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The state-by-state review, From Hospitals to Healthcare Coalitions: Transforming Health Preparedness and Response in Our Communities, was prepared by HHS' Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and identifies the progress states have made preparing hospitals for all types of disasters. The report also discusses the next steps to boost community resilience, HHS announced.

All states, eight U.S. territories and four large metropolitan areas participate in the cooperative agreement grant program, which provides federal funds, technical assistance, and guidelines for hospital preparedness. Of the more than 6,300 hospitals across the nation, more than 85% use the program, HHS says.

Hospitals meeting preparedness performance measures have dedicated redundant, interoperable systems to communicate between hospitals, public health agencies and emergency managers. These hospitals can report the number of available beds to a state, territory or city emergency operations center within 60 minutes of a request during a disaster.

These hospitals also have plans to handle a surge in demand for hospital services during a disaster, as well as plans for hospital evacuation, sheltering patients and staff in place during a disaster, and to respond to mass fatalities, HHS said.

Hospitals meeting program measures demonstrate their response capability during emergency exercises, including statewide or regional exercises, or actual incidents. The hospitals develop improvement plans based on after-action reports from these events. During a disaster, they use the incident command system, and have adopted the National Incident Management System through the hospital organization. These systems standardize response terminology and command-and-control structure across the emergency response, HHS said.

To meet some of these performance measures and enhance the response capability, states, territories, cities, and participating hospitals also use HPP funding to purchase emergency equipment, such as mobile medical units to bring medical care to survivors during disaster response and back-up generators to keep participating hospitals running when power is otherwise unavailable, HHS said.

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