Commentary

20 years after 9/11 emergency hospital and emergency preparedness remains key

September 11, 2021 12:40 am

A sign reading “Heroes work here” is shown outside a hospital. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

By Mike Abrams, President & CEO, Ohio Hospital Association

The devastating fallout of Hurricane Ida coupled with the escalation of cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 and devastating wildfires in the West demonstrate the vital importance of emergency preparedness planning. The actions taken nationally and locally after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ushered in a new collaborative effort of preparing for disasters and emergencies in our communities. Ohio communities have benefited from this important investment leading to more efficient management of emergencies.

As we recognize the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, I am calling attention to the important work of Ohio hospitals and the emergency management agencies (police, fire, health) that have committed to working together through training and planning to ensure our preparedness for future emergencies. Our work is important and needs supported.

Hospital Preparedness

Ohio Hospital Association represents its members with state and regional emergency management agencies providing support and information on training development, distribution of resources and supplies, and assisting with data collection.

The Hospital Preparedness Program, established by Congress, is designed to ensure the health care delivery system operates during emergencies and disaster events that exceed the day-to-day capacity and capability of existing health and emergency response systems. Ohio’s Hospital Preparedness Program comprises health care coalitions organized in eight regions to ensure continuous readiness of emergency response. This system is used today to coordinate efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the onset of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, OHA collaborated with the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Ohio Manufacturing Extension Program and JobsOhio to create the “Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19.” This partnership repurposed manufacturing operations to produce some of the most in-demand products in the fight against COVID-19.

OHA went on to create the statewide Hospital PPE Readiness Stockpile to assure hospitals and nursing homes had access to protective equipment. OHA assured every nursing home in Ohio had a hospital partner to implement infection prevention, testing and hospital transition protocols.

We’ve also seen recent emergencies in Ohio that demonstrate how preparedness works in an instant. In 2019 hospitals in the Dayton area provided care to nearly 385 people injured by tornadoes and severe weather during Memorial Day weekend. And too soon after, the same group responded instantly to manage care for those injured in a mass shooting.

Ongoing Investment

Hospitals invest in preparing their facilities and services for diverse emergencies that can arise in a community. In collaboration with local, state and national agencies, hospitals are working to predict, and prepare for potential crises – pandemics, natural disasters and even terrorist attacks. According to U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Preparedness and Response, more than $6.8 billion has been invested in health care preparedness across all 50 states, and more than 300 coalitions have been established. As part of this national effort, OHA has led statewide and regional preparedness and response initiatives. When Ebola arrived in the U.S., OHA was key in the response and the development of statewide protocols now in place for emerging pathogens.

The Future

Legendary coach Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a teamwork, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Ohio hospitals are committed to being a valuable partner in the community emergency response planning often working regionally and nationally to bring the best resources and support to our state. When disaster strikes, hospitals and public health officials must work together to meet the health needs of the communities they serve. The hard work of our emergency response teams at our hospitals and in our communities across Ohio deserve our continued support and recognition. 

Mike Abrams is president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association, which represents 245 hospitals and 15 health systems across the state.

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