The National Bioterrorism Hospital Preparedness Program should partially underwrite hospitals' purchase of ventilators, decontamination suits and other emergency supplies needed to respond to a bioterrorist attack, the General Accounting Office recommended in a federally mandated report. Most urban hospitals lack sufficient capacity and equipment to handle a large bioterrorist attack, the GAO said. "Meeting those needs fully could be extremely difficult because bioterrorism preparedness is expensive and hospitals are reluctant to create capacity that is not needed on a routine basis and may never be used," the report concluded. In a survey conducted between May 2002 and July 2003, about 1,500 hospitals responded to questions on emergency preparedness. Of those, 95% had coordinated preparations with local, state or federal agencies; 80% had written emergency response plans; and 70% had provided training to their staffs, although less than half had conducted drills or exercises. In oral comments, the American Hospital Association noted that few benchmarks exist to help hospitals plan emergency preparations. GAO reports are available online at www.gao.gov. -- by Mark Taylor
Hospital terror-response capacity needs help: GAO
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