Congress can act on PAHPA during lame duck session

During its lame duck session, Congress has the chance to vote on the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2011, which could provide needed resources to victims after an emergency or disaster.

The PAHPA regulates the resources provided to the nation's public health system during disasters and public health emergencies, whether accidental, deliberate or natural. The bill received overwhelming approval in both the Senate and the House, and the last remaining step before bringing the bill to the president's desk is a final vote, the Hill reports.

Brad Poss, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said that an important part of both the Senate and House versions of the legislation is the prioritization of the critical care system in federal disaster planning.

"This PAHPA reauthorization is historic in recognizing the importance of strengthening the U.S. critical care infrastructure as an essential factor in enhancing our nation's medical preparedness for a health emergency," Poss said, according to the Hill. "This is important because, despite the significant role critical care plays in providing high quality health care for the critically ill and injured-a system whose capacity is put to the test and often stretched beyond its limits in the event of a wide-spread health emergency - critical care is not understood as distinct within the continuum of health care delivery, or for that matter, in the context of public health preparedness."

Poss pointed out the recent patient transportation issues that occurred during Hurricane Sandy when nurses, physicians and other clinicians worked in the dark to transport critically ill infants to other facilities after the power went out and backup generators failed.

"As a nation, we have faced many notable and severe health emergencies, and disasters and health emergencies will continue to test the United States and our public health system," Poss said, according to the Hill. "Congress' reauthorization of the PAHPA legislation will represent one of the many important steps forward towards addressing the unique challenges and needs of our critical care infrastructure to ensure our preparation for a national health emergency, because we know that at any time a disaster can strike."