• New Report Raises Preparedness Bar
  • May 19, 2008
  • Law Firm: Troutman Sanders LLP - Atlanta Office
  • Is your healthcare facility prepared to provide emergency mass critical care (“EMCC”) for triple your usual ICU capacity for 10 days without external assistance in the wake of a mass casualty disaster or public health emergency? If not, according to a new report titled Definitive Care for the Critically Ill During a Disaster (“Report”), you should be.

    The Report, authored by the Task Force for Mass Critical Care, raises the preparedness bar by setting numerous benchmarks for surge capacity that hospitals are encouraged to meet and challenging hospitals to plan for providing care when they can surge no longer. While meeting the benchmarks may be difficult for many hospitals, it is the second part – planning to allocate scarce critical resources and ration care – that the majority of hospitals find daunting. According to the Report, not only do physicians and hospital administrators lack appropriate training to respond to mass casualty disasters, the “perceived risk of adverse action for deliberately modifying processes of care may make many shy away from planning for EMCC.”

    Hospitals cannot afford, however, to let these fears impede their planning efforts. If they do, they may be closing the door on one perceived liability and opening the door to another. Negligent failure to prepare, a cause of action borne out of the 2003 SARS epidemic in Toronto and seen most recently in post-Hurricane Katrina litigation, arguably poses a bigger threat to hospitals than the pre-planned initiation of altered standards of care. This is especially true in light of legislation that has been adopted, and is being debated, in state legislatures around the country.

    The Task Force Report states, “We cannot wait to develop perfect surge strategies because the first time the modern North American health-care system faces mass critical care may prove catastrophic without pre-event preparedness efforts.” The Washington Post quoted Steve Gravely, head of the Troutman Sanders Health Care Practice Group, who said that “the [Report] should serve as a ‘clarion call. Every hospital needs to be preparing for this right now.’”

    Your facility needs to begin planning now for how it will provide EMCC during a mass casualty disaster or public health emergency with limited resources. You should create realistic, implementable plans for surge that meet the newly established benchmarks and for allocating scarce resources once you have exhausted your surge plans. Some states, like Virginia, have developed task forces and planning guides to assist health care facilities with their preparedness efforts, including allocation of scarce resources. If you are not sure where to begin, or how the report may impact your existing plans, feel free to contact us for more information.