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    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Are We Ready? US News and World Report says nope. Almost five years after 9/11 and the anthrax scare, when the importance of public health preparedness for biological and other catastrophes was made apparent, most communities are still unprepared. And don't expect the public health authorities to step into the breach:

    A study released last week found that nearly half of local public-health department staffers would not report to work if there were a pandemic. "When people are worried about their families, they'll put family before work," says Richard Bradley, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, who noted that a number of his staffers were no-shows two days before Hurricane Rita's projected landfall last year.

    The article also points out, correctly, that most community physicians have no idea what their role would be in an emergency situation. When hospitals have disaster drills and planning, they only incorporate the hospital staff, not the community physicians. There are exceptions, especially in small towns, but by and large the business of hospitals is divorced from the business of physicians these days.

    posted by Sydney on 5/02/2006 08:31:00 AM 1 comments


    No, we are not ready for any kind of biological catastrophe, manmade or natural. I feel this is mainly because the planners are keeping things too close to the vest. (Because they know just how little we CAN do to get ready??? I wonder.) And it is correct that most community physicians have no idea what we are to do. Because we aren't being told, and we aren't being required to participate. Our "required" participation in the drills that we are being told about is to answer our pages and say whether we could come or not if it were real. I once scheduled time off to actually come when called, and no one knew what to do with me; they had made no preparations for a physician to actually be there!

    Physicians should be required to take time off to participate in disaster drills as part of maintaining hospital privileges. We are rewarded enough by society to have society expect this of us. And nothing beats practice. Would a surgeon like to go do a new procedure having never practiced it or even really read about it? I think not. Disaster response should be treated in the same manner.

    To me, however, what's worse than not having physicians participate in these drills is not even telling us what the plans are. I have been trying to get the director of the Health District in my county to let me know what the smallpox response plan is ever since shortly after the anthrax attacks. I am still waiting. As I have told her, when the official report of the first case of smallpox comes out, it will be the phones in my office, and the offices of all my primary care colleagues, that start to ring, not the phones at the health department. And when I have to answer, I don't know how or when you're supposed to get vaccinated, I will look stupid (the public thinks we are being included in this planning) and the panic will increase.

    Karl L. Krohn, M.D.
    Rantings of a Medical Mind

    By Blogger PostalMed, at 2:07 PM  

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