UPMC releases assessment of health preparedness

The Center for Biosecurity of UPMC has released a comprehensive assessment of the Health and Human Services Hospital Preparedness program to aid in developing recommendations for improving and evaluating future hospital preparedness efforts.

The document, titled "The Next Challenge in Healthcare Preparedness: Catastrophic Health Events," comes as part of the assessment contracted by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The newly released report calls for several key elements to create a national strategy for healthcare preparedness and response in the event of a bioattack or pandemic. Elements the report calls for include a definition and vision of a U.S. healthcare system that is prepared to handle the response required for mass casualty events of varying sizes and severity. These events are expected to range from common medical disasters such as a tornado to catastrophic health events such as a bioattack.

The report also makes recommendations and calls for actions to create a healthcare system that is capable of providing a full response to the full spectrum of mass casualty events.

Challenges to the report's recommendations include hospitals and healthcare organizations that do not currently participate in fully functional healthcare coalitions and coalitions that do not yet have the ability to share information, resources and decision making with other coalitions during an attack.

Additionally, the report cites inadequate systems for performing triage, providing immediate treatment and transportation of patients outside of an attack zone. Current resources and plans for transporting patients, the report says, are grossly inadequate for the expected number of patients.

The report also says that not enough guidance is provided on the crisis standards of care necessary during all stages of an attack and that there is no plan that sufficiently outlines healthcare roles, responsibilities and actions during the response to a bioattack.