Sunday, January 24, 2010

Terrorism and Hospitals

Later Friday the House Homeland Security Committee announced that the Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight would be conducting a field hearing on Monday in Danville, PA. CEO’s from four hospitals would be helping to answer the question: “Is the Medical Community Ready if Disaster or Terrorism Strikes: Closing the Gap in Medical Surge Capacity?” The Committee web site noted that:
“This field hearing will examine how the Department of Homeland Security coordinates with the Department of Health and Human Services, local hospital facilities, and public health officials in establishing and coordinating a national medical response strategy during an act of terrorism or public health threat, including biological, chemical or radiological events.”
With the field hearing be conducted so far from the Internet hub of the western world there will be no web cast of the hearing. It is a shame because I was hoping to hear the answer when someone from Chairman Carney’s (D, PA) Subcommittee asked each of the CEO’s if they had been in contact with the high-risk chemical facilities in their service areas regarding the potential chemical exposures that their medical facility would be dealing with in the event of a successful terrorist attack on those chemical facilities. Now to be perfectly fair to everyone involved, I doubt that this question will come up. Everyone, myself included, has failed to address the requirements for medical response to such attacks. We have talked about the necessity for coordinating with first responders and emergency response personnel, but have completely ignored the destination of the ambulances once they have left the scene of the attack. While we have heard numerous news stories about hospital emergency room conducting decontamination drills and even somewhere decon was thought to be necessary in a real event, there has been very little discussion of what will go on in the hospital once the victims have been decontaminated. Of course treatment depends on the chemical to which the victim was exposed. That is the reason that the local hospitals need to know the chemicals of interest with which they could be dealing. If they know that they can predetermine the likely treatment needs and train their staffs accordingly. Someone please ask these hospital CEO’s if they know what large scale chemical mass casualties they would be dealing with if terrorists successfully attacked one of the high-risk chemical facilities in their area. Anyone willing to bet that they know? I wouldn’t.


Anonymous said...

VEry good question to raise. My favorite EPA chemical engineer/regulator said his experience indicated hospitals were in blissful ignorance of both facility and transportation risks nearby. I am working currently on ensuring that folks working on NBA All-Stars game and SuperBowl security arrangements take some of this into account. You might check out the Vancouver Olympics-related controversy:

PJCoyle said...

For my response to the comments made by Anonymous see

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */