Monday, August 08, 2005

Washington Post Editorial: ER Disaster Readiness

From the Washington Post

Still Not Ready in The ER

By Arthur Kellerman

One of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to coolly and dispassionately assess health threats against the populace and take decisive action to counter these threats.

Faced with the twin specters of mass casualties from international terrorism and emerging biological threats, our government has failed to take effective action on either front.

International terrorism's weapon of choice is explosives -- improvised and otherwise. The London attacks and the devastating Madrid bombings are only some of the more recent examples. Over the past decade terrorist bombings have caused many civilian deaths and injuries in Israel, Russia, Bali, Colombia, Iraq, Spain, Egypt, Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, Argentina, Afghanistan, the Philippines and other places, including two U.S. embassies in Africa.

But unfortunately, rather than strengthen our nation's beleaguered emergency and trauma care system to meet this threat, the federal government has turned a blind eye to the problem. Across the United States, underfunded emergency rooms and trauma centers lack sufficient beds to meet their daily mission, much less absorb large numbers of victims from a terrorist attack. Few ambulance personnel know how to assess a blast scene or properly evaluate multiple casualties from a bombing. The tiny amount of federal funding ($3.5 million) devoted to trauma systems planning and development is being targeted for elimination by the House.


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