Vaccines – currently only one of the five companies producing vaccines used in the U.S. for the H1N1 virus are domestically located. The majority of vaccines used are produced overseas and then shipped to the U.S. The H1N1 virus has helped to unveil severe issues with vaccination production and distribution issues inherent with needing to ship in vaccines. While the issues facing the production and supply of the H1N1 are important, they only serve to highlight an even more severe unpreparedness for a greater virus requiring even more vaccine. It is paramount that we begin to establish domestic production plants of vaccine and develop sound methods of distributing the vaccines to the public as needed.
Surge Capacity – The tragedy that took place in New York on September 11, 2001, the collapsing of the overpass in Minnesota, the flooding in North Dakota, the hurricanes in Louisiana and Mississippi, and now, the current H1N1 pandemic are realities of unexpected events we must always be expecting. None of the areas surrounding these events were logistically prepared to handle the surge capacity or long term sustainability needed. These are the sort of unpredictable event that we must prepare our healthcare community to be able to withstand in all areas of the country. Protections must be instituted to be able to respond to any event in a moment’s notice or be equipped to handle long term sustainability needs if needed. These are the goals of the Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness. Our purpose is to work tirelessly with hospitals, government agencies, and private companies to help bring the United States to the forefront in emergency preparedness.
Supply and Services – a key component of maintaining emergency preparedness at all times is ensuring that hospitals have enough supply capability on hand to withstand a major surge and also sustain an extended lapse in re-supply availability. Most hospitals and medical centers across the country lack sufficient supplies or systems to enable them to handle a sustained surge in patients like would be seen in the event of a crisis. A shocking example of hospitals dependence on off-site aid can be seen in the fact that most hospitals do not even treat their own laundry on the hospital grounds. It is a common practice for hospitals to outsource laundry services creating an unnecessary vulnerability. The coalition is focused on developing solutions to increase current supply stocks and make hospitals more self sustaining and less dependent on off-site resources.
On-site sterilization of infectious medical waste is a key example of a responsible on-site solution for hospitals. The majority of hospitals currently truck their infectious medical waste through towns and neighborhoods to off-site sterilization plants at a higher cost for transportation. However, some hospitals employ on-site sterilization units that can disinfect the medical waste at the hospital, turning it into standard municipal waste and allowing it to be transported without threat to local communities at a cheaper cost. Some units could even sterilize items to be re-used in times of need. On-site treatment of medical waste provides a safer, greener, more cost efficient approach to dealing with infectious medical waste.