Hospitals in the New York metropolitan area will receive a total of $35 million in emergency funds to help offset lost business, capital damage and other expenses incurred as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The money is part of $5.1 billion in disaster-relief funds released Sept. 21, the first installment of a total of $40 billion in federal money approved to aid recovery from the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
HHS has about $126 million of the first installment for various support services, and more money will be coming, an HHS spokesman said. He was not aware of a release schedule, however.
Hospitals will receive grants based on a survey of their disaster-related costs being conducted by the New York Department of Health and the Greater New York Hospital Association. Survey forms are due from hospitals midweek, and the money should be distributed within four to six weeks, GNYHA President Kenneth Raske said.
As of Sept. 24, 86 hospitals in New York had treated 5,392 patients as a result of the disaster, according to the GNYHA. Seven hospitals in Washington and northern Virginia received 95 patients from the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan, which as the closest trauma center to the disaster treated more than 600 victims, said preliminary numbers show a 46% decline in inpatient volume and a 70% drop in outpatient volume during the 10 days after the attacks.
Hospitals also incurred significant capital losses, which will be reimbursed, Raske said.
For example, 2,346-bed New York-Presbyterian Hospital lost nine ambulances in the collapse of the World Trade Center's twin towers. And the data center of 1,860-bed Mount Sinai-NYU Hospitals/Health System sustained substantial damage.
The HHS aid package for New York includes $10 million for community health centers, $28 million for mental health services, $25 million for social services, such as food and shelter, and $10 million to ensure that Medicare is able to continue to pay claims in New York. Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which processes Medicare claims in New York, was headquartered in the World Trade Center.
Meanwhile, a congressionally chartered commission on terrorism said hospitals should develop "all-hazards" emergency response plans including preparation for biological attacks. The commission, headed by Virginia Gov. James Gilmore III, met last week to prepare an interim report to Congress and the president. The report, due within two weeks, will assess the nation's readiness for attacks and recommend steps to improve.
It is an advance of recommendations that originally were due in mid-December, but Gilmore and other commissioners accelerated their activity in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. A fuller version of the report will be delivered to the White House and Congress later this year.
For example, the commission will recommend that hospitals be instructed to tell law enforcement, intelligence and public health officials when treating victims of an unusual disease outbreak, said Michael Wermuth, the commission's project director. That's a difference from the reporting requirements hospitals are under when dealing with the victims of a normal accident or natural disaster.
"There clearly are some additional requirements, some nuances, that you wouldn't have to be aware of with a (regular) chemical spill or infectious disease," Wermuth said.
The commission will recommend full implementation of an American Medical Association report that the AMA published in December. That report said hospitals need to be prepared for potential chemical or biological terrorist attacks by having adequate protective equipment for employees, decontamination units for victims, infection-control safeguards, adequate supplies of antidotes, and training with special equipment.
The commission is not making clear, however, if it will recommend that the federal government help hospitals with purchases of new equipment or supplies related to preparing for terrorist attacks.
Hospital lobbying groups, meanwhile, are choosing their words carefully when assessing whether money should accompany future federal mandates. Richard Coorsh, a spokesman for the Federation of American Hospitals, said it's too early to discuss funding.
Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association isn't specifically asking for more money either but is gingerly suggesting that more money is needed, softening its rhetoric from a week earlier, which drew harsh criticism from some lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
James Bentley, the AHA's senior vice president for strategic policy planning, said the federal government could make expanded terrorism preparedness part of the Medicare conditions of participation, with a corresponding increase in Medicare payment rates.