Hospital representatives told a congressional panel that only a fraction of the several hundred millions of dollars in federal funds allocated to help hospitals prepare for potential terrorist attacks have reached them. For example, each hospital in New York City -- the site of this year's Republican convention -- spent an average of $2.5 million on disaster-preparedness activities between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2002, but each received only $125,000 in federal preparedness funds for fiscal years 2002 and 2003 combined, said Susan Waltman, senior vice president and general counsel at the Greater New York Hospital Association. An additional $4.2 million in federal funds is being dispersed among all New York City hospitals for antiterrorism projects. Waltman was speaking at a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Lawmakers agreed that funds must be distributed more quickly but stopped short of supporting legislation to speed up the process. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), however, advocated legislation to ensure that areas at high risk of terrorist attacks get more money quicker.
Whether drugmakers will experience similar funding problems remains to be seen. President Bush on Wednesday signed into law the $5.6 billion, 10-year Project BioShield. The law, meant to encourage companies to develop treatments and vaccines against potential terrorist agents such as Ebola, anthrax and smallpox, guarantees a federal market for such products and also provides federal funding for their development. -- by Tony Fong