Potential terrorist attacks and the possibility of naturally occurring disease outbreaks have raised concerns about the "surge capacity" of the nation's health care systems to respond to mass casualty events. GAO identified four key components of preparing for medical surge: (1) increasing hospital capacity, (2) identifying alternate care sites, (3) registering medical volunteers, and (4) planning for altering established standards of care. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the primary agency for hospital preparedness, including medical surge. GAO was asked to examine (1) what assistance the federal government has provided to help states prepare for medical surge, (2) what states have done to prepare for medical surge, and (3) concerns states have identified related to medical surge. GAO reviewed documents from the 50 states and federal agencies. GAO also interviewed officials from a judgmental sample of 20 states and from federal agencies, as well as emergency preparedness experts.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Health and Human Services||To further assist states in determining how they will allocate scarce medical resources in a mass casualty event, the Secretary of HHS should ensure that the department serve as a clearinghouse for sharing among the states altered standards of care guidelines that have been developed by individual states or medical experts.|