US hospitals better prepared for disaster - report
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. hospitals are better prepared for disasters than they were before the Sept. 11 attacks, but many medical facilities remain ill-equipped for catastrophic situations like large natural disasters or terrorist attacks, preparedness experts said on Thursday.
A 2002 U.S. government program, initiated after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has helped hospitals train staff and coordinate planning with one another and with emergency officials, the report from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity found.
"Prior to 2002, most hospitals did not have adequate plans to handle common medical disasters, much less catastrophic emergencies," the report reads.
"Our research found that U.S. hospitals are significantly better prepared than they were in 2001 to deal with common disasters, such as tornadoes, bridge collapses and mass shootings. Moreover, much of that progress is attributable to the Hospital Preparedness Program," the center's experts wrote.
But the report, available at http://www.upmc-biosecurity.org, found that hospitals still lack the capacity to deal with big influxes of patients for large and ongoing disasters.
"While we found ... that a strong foundation has been built for hospitals to be able to respond to catastrophic situations -- such as large earthquakes, pandemic influenza, or the aftermath of nuclear or biological terrorism -- there is much to be done before hospitals are prepared to address the complicated challenges associated with those large-scale events that drain response resources over a prolonged period of time," they wrote.
Many studies have shown that U.S. hospitals would be completely overwhelmed by a large disaster. They lack beds, rooms and staff to handle large numbers of patients and many report they have insufficient space for new patients on an average day.
(Reporting by Maggie Fox)