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Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Medical and Public Health Preparedness for Catastrophic Events. Medical Surge Capacity: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010.

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Medical Surge Capacity: Workshop Summary.

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Workshop Summary: Introduction1

In June 2009 the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) Forum on Medical and Public Health Preparedness for Catastrophic Events held a workshop with the goal of convening many of the best minds in health preparedness for a wide-ranging update on preparations for a major public health threat.

For the health community, a primary issue at hand before and during a catastrophic incident is how to provide care to thousands or tens of thousands of individuals through a health system that will go beyond capacity. Much work on this subject has been done, but responses to incidents continue to show that gaps in the system remain and further refinement is required. Some of the work is as simple as creating common language: defining medical surge capacity, and creating standards and metrics to guide planning so that the highest priority requirements can be addressed in a timely manner. Some of the work is blisteringly complex, such as developing data systems that reach across the boundaries of states and regions, public and private healthcare systems, and outside the healthcare environment into the work of emergency management organizations. How do the medical system, public health system, and emergency management system provide care to those who need it with limited resources and staff? How can facilities prepare to meet the surge 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 overloaded 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 planning committee’s role was limited to planning the workshop. The workshop summary has been prepared by the workshop rapporteurs as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop.

Footnotes

1

The planning committee’s role was limited to planning the workshop. The workshop summary has been prepared by the workshop rapporteurs as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop.

Copyright © 2010, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK32843
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