and, simultaneously, what procedures, policies, and planning can be done to reduce the requirement to surge?
Coincident with the second day of the workshop, the World Health Organization officially declared the H1N1 virus to be pandemic, based on viral activity in the Southern hemisphere. The United States had already recorded 27 deaths and 13,217 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza by June 5, and was beginning to gear up for many more in cases in fall 2009. Emergency departments in certain parts of the country were over-loaded with patients either ill with virus, or concerned they were. Schools in cities such as New York City (NYC) were closing in response to massive absenteeism, either due to illness or anxious parents keeping their children home.
As Gerry Parker, principal deputy assistant secretary for Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), explained to workshop attendees: “The country stands at a moment in history in which we face continued and complex challenges, but also ample opportunities. As we address the issues of healthcare reform, the creation of the first national health security strategy and the realities of a potential pandemic influenza, we must also continue our efforts to seek solutions and mitigation efforts for all health threats of natural disasters, emerging effects of diseases, bioterrorism, and terrorism.”
The Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) in HHS’s ASPR sponsored the workshop on medical surge capacity. HPP’s mission is to help prepare the nation’s healthcare system to respond appropriately to mass-casualty incidents, whether due to bioterrorism, natural disaster, or other public health emergencies. Ultimately, this effort comes down to preparedness and efficiency—health systems must develop a disaster medical capability that is rapid, flexible, sustainable, integrated, and coordinated, and that can deliver appropriate treatment in the most ethical manner with the resources and capabilities available.
The workshop, held in Washington, DC, on June 10–11, 2009, featured presentations and discussions on the following topics, including the role of HPP in facilitating each of these efforts: