NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hospitals Want Federal Money for Attack Preparedness

October 29, 2001

Lack of funds and federal laws are hindering hospitals in their preparations for future terrorist attacks, charges the American Hospital Association.

  • The organization's 5,000 nonprofit member hospitals -- or some 85 percent of U.S. hospitals -- are looking for about $10 billion to respond within the first 24 to 48 hours of a large-scale chemical, nuclear or biological attack.
  • As a baseline, the organization assumes that urban hospitals would receive 1,000 casualties in the immediate aftermath of any attack -- and rural hospitals would receive 200.
  • Hospitals' weaknesses range from old mobile-radio systems, insufficient clothing and respiratory gear to protect personnel, insufficient facilities to isolate or decontaminate patients and staff and short stocks of antibiotics and other supplies.

Experts say hospitals could also be hampered by federal laws. Antidumping statutes -- which prohibit hospitals from transferring patients to other facilities unless the patients have been evaluated and stabilized -- could undermine plans to direct patients with specific exposures to specified treatment centers.

Patient-privacy regulations which will go into effect soon could complicate surveillance programs to detect an outbreak early and to notify relatives of the status of victims of an attack.

Source: "U.S. Hospitals May Need $10 Billion to Be Prepared for Bioterror Attack," Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2001.

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