HHS announces $390 million in grants for hospital preparedness

Jul 8, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – States and territories will receive a total of $390.5 million in federal grants this year to help hospitals and other healthcare facilities improve their capability to cope with emergencies and disasters, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced yesterday.

The annual grants are intended to "enhance community resilience by increasing the ability of hospital and healthcare facilities to respond to the medical impacts of any emergency, such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, or acts of terrorism," HHS officials said in a news release.

The grants go to all 50 states, eight territories, and four metropolitan areas: Chicago, Los Angeles County, New York City, and Washington, DC. For the states, amounts range from almost $32 million for California to $1.1 million for Wyoming. The allocations are based mainly on population.

The grants for healthcare surge capacity and a related grant program for state public health preparedness were launched in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Last year's round of hospital preparedness grants was smaller, at $362 million, according to Elleen Kane, a spokeswoman for the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, which administers the program.

But she said last year's funding covered only 9 months instead of a full year, because HHS changed the program calendar to match the states' July-to-June budget cycle. Previously the grants were timed according to the federal budget cycle, based on an October-to-September fiscal year. HHS did not make a public announcement of the grant total last year, she said, commenting, "We were in the throes of H1N1."

Last year there was also a special round of HHS grants totaling $90 million, announced in July, to help healthcare facilities prepare for the fall wave of pandemic flu.

This year's healthcare preparedness funding is slightly below the 2008 amount of $398 million. In 2007 the grants totaled $430 million, and in 2006 the amount was $450 million.

The HHS announcement said the funds are intended to be used to develop or improve interoperable communication systems, systems to track available hospital beds, advance registration of volunteer health professionals, process for hospital evacuations or sheltering in place, processes for facility management, community healthcare partnerships, and hospital participation in statewide or regional training exercises.

An official with Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a nonprofit public health advocacy group based in Washington, DC, told CIDRAP News the group is encouraged that the hospital preparedness program is continuing but regards it as very inadequate for its intended purposes.

Laura Segal, TFAH's director of public affairs, said the program has been important for planning and has helped with some preparedness steps, but commented, "Obviously it's not at a sufficient level to really prepare the hospitals for the kinds of threats we're talking about, from a severe pandemic to things like hurricanes or other sorts of infectious disease outbreaks or bioterrorism."

See also:

Jul 7 HHS announcement with list of grants by jurisdiction
http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/07/20100707h.html

Jun 3, 2008, CIDRAP News story on 2008 hospital preparedness grants
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/bioprep/news/jun0308funding-jw.html

HHS general information about the Hospital Preparedness Program
http://www.phe.gov/preparedness/planning/hpp/pages/default.aspx

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