In a survey of 739 hospitals with emergency or outpatient departments, about 92% had revised their emergency response plans since Sept. 11, 2001, according to preliminary data released by the National Center for Health Statistics. However, only 63% had addressed natural disasters and biological, chemical, radiological and explosive-incendiary terrorism incidents in their plans.
Preparedness seemed to vary, depending on the type of hospital. For example, proprietary and not-for-profit hospitals addressed all hazards more frequently in their plans than state or local government hospitals, and hospitals with residency programs addressed biological, chemical and explosive incidents more frequently than those hospitals without residencies. Unsurprisingly, urban hospitals addressed biological, chemical, radiological and explosive incidents more often than rural hospitals, and hospitals with fewer than 100 beds were less likely to address these incidents than those with 100 beds or more.
In other findings, nearly 80% of hospitals engaged in cooperative planning with other facilities but only 52% had actual written agreements to be able to transfer patients during a disaster. -- by Jennifer Lubell