Hospitals would stuggle against CBRN response

Studies have shown that hospital emergency and trauma facilities, which are already stressed, would struggle to treat victims in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological of nuclear attack.

Some hospital emergency departments in large cities are so swamped that ambulances must be re-routed, studies say, and many urban hospitals do not have adequate staff, equipment, beds or surge plans to deal with the wave of hundreds or thousands of patients a CBRN attack would bring.

There are numerous reasons for this situation, including a lack of funding for trauma and emergency care.

"Trauma care is one of the worst-compensated things hospitals can be involved in," Arthur L. Kellermann, former chairman of emergency medicine at Emory University in Atlanta and now head of Rand Corp.'s public health and preparedness program, told the Wall Street Journal.

A 2007 report from the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine concluded that, "Even in responding to day-to-day demands, the emergency and trauma care system in the United States is often stretched beyond its capacity," the Wall Street Journal Reports.

According to Dr. Kellerman, the solution is to add staff that would allow capacity at hospitals to be increased by as much as 30 percent. Additionally, plans need to be in place to clear emergency rooms, cancel elective procedures and admissions, increase triage areas and immediately discharge patients who can safely leave to allow CBRN victims in.