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Hospitals Should Band Together Before The Next Crisis Hits

07/07/2010 -Debbie Drake, a nurse and emergency management coordinator at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, was chatting casually with her counterparts from neighboring institutions about procurement of supplies like emergency respirators. They were shocked to learn that their supplier had told each of them the same thing: he had 30 on hand if they were needed. That meant just 30 for all three facilities and for the region in the event of a disaster.

Drake realized that the region’s healthcare providers, which are market competitors day-to-day, had to align and be ready to unite instantly in the event of a disaster, or even a smaller mass-casualty event. That realization, some years ago, led to the Healthcare Coalition in Southwest Idaho, under which 12 institutions—covering 150 square miles—plan, exercise, and respond together.

Recently, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) Center for Biosecurity, which monitors the federal government’s National Healthcare Preparedness Program (NHPP), issued a report on the country’s level of preparedness for catastrophic health events. UPMC recommended that every hospital in the country be a member of a healthcare coalition. While the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services has included coalition participation in its NHPP grant guidance, the agency has not yet assessed participation nationwide, according to agency spokeswoman Gretchen Michael.

(To read the rest of "Partnering for a Healthy Response" from the July issue of Security Management , click here .)

♦ Photo bytaberandrew/Flickr