The recent reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) provides additional support for medical facilities in the Hospital Preparedness Program to prepare, respond, and recover from disasters. Additionally the Act promotes the development of new vaccines to fight epidemics and pandemics.
On June 24th, President Trump signed into law the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 (PAHPAIA) - an Act that reauthorizes the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 and authorizes more than $7 billion towards the development of new vaccines to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fight epidemics and pandemics.
The newly signed law also increases the support available for medical facilities in the Hospital Preparedness Program. Currently more than thirty-one thousand entities participate in Hospital Preparedness coalitions that bring together medical facilities and healthcare services in local communities in order to deliver coordinated medical care during a disaster.
More Focus on Streamlining Communication
Improving communications between medical facilities and healthcare services is a common theme throughout the Act. Congress acknowledges there are many disparate systems being used by entities in the Hospital Preparedness Program and the National Medical Disaster System, and has tasked the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with reviewing existing systems and identifying ways in which it is possible to improve information sharing, collaboration, and accountability.
The Act also authorizes grants for the Public Health Emergency Rapid Response Fund for the purpose of accelerating emergency responses both by the nationwide Medical Reserve Corps and individual volunteer healthcare professionals. In order to qualify for a grant entities within the Hospital Preparedness Program will need to implement a communication system through which volunteers can register their availability and through which emergency managers can coordinate volunteers.
Review of the National Medical Disaster System
A further area of concern acknowledged in the Act is a potential shortage of medically-trained personnel during a disaster. A review of medical surge capacities has been ordered to identify gaps in workforce availability and make recommendations for addressing the gaps. The Act suggests looking at the effectiveness of existing recruitment, training, and retention policies, but the option also exists of using technology solutions to help medical facilities quickly fill gaps in workforce availability.
Special consideration during the review is to be given to the CDC´s Children´s Preparedness Unit and “at risk” groups. The review will have to take into account how well hospital disaster preparedness has protected children during recent disasters, how plans can be improved, and what can be done to serve children better during emergency events. With regards to improving disaster preparedness for “at risk” groups, many regions already take advantage of Smart911 to create vulnerable needs registries.
Certain Changes Impact State and Federal Agencies
While the primary impact of PAHPAIA will ultimately be to streamline how healthcare entities prepare, respond, and recover from disasters, state and federal agencies are also required to streamline communication and coordination in certain areas. One example of how certain changes will impact state and federal agencies is the deployment of state personnel whose day-to-day jobs are not related to emergency preparedness, response, or recovery to support healthcare facilities in a disaster.
The Act also codifies coordination across federal agencies through a Public Health and Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise in order to bridge gaps, avoid redundancy, and set priorities in the development of vaccines and supplying the Strategic National Stockpile. You can read the Act in full on the Congress.gov website.
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