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Wednesday, January 23rd 2002

The Honorable Tommy G. Thompson
Secretary of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW 615F
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Thompson:

As you know, P.L. 107-117 provides the Department of Health and Human Services with important funding for bioterrorism preparedness, including $135 million for hospital readiness. The American Hospital Association (AHA) is concerned that funds designated to go towards "grants to improve hospital capacity to respond to bioterrorism," as enacted by the Department of Defense Supplemental Appropriations Act, may not be used for helping hospitals increase their readiness as Congress intended. This is critical funding for hospitals because they have already identified needs that should be met immediately to improve the nation's response to biological terrorism and enhance its security.

High priority needs across the hospital community include:

  • Updated communication equipment to provide hospitals with the ability to speak with other hospitals and with police, fire, public health, EMS, and emergency management when telephones and cell phones are overloaded or out of service.
  • Laboratory and communications equipment to enable rapid and automated reporting of emergency department admission patterns, unusual prescription patterns and suspicious cases to local and/or state public health agencies.
  • Large scale community drills including joint participation by police, fire, EMS, public health and local emergency management to build skills and identify preparedness weaknesses.
  • Increased antibiotic inventories at hospitals to adequately care for staff and patients for at least the first 48 hours of a biological incident so that Federal supplements can be shipped and distributed within the community.

The AHA recognizes that $135 million is a modest first step in fully preparing hospitals for a mass casualty biological event. We disagree, however, with proposals that would use the $135 million primarily to plan a hospital's role in community and regional preparedness. We believe that the approximately $1 billion provided for public health preparedness and monies in future appropriations should be used in part for preparedness planning.

Given the immediate needs of hospitals and the possibility of a biological incident at any time, the AHA strongly recommends that DHHS use the $135 million to enable hospitals to immediately undertake actions to increase preparedness by providing funds for the above described purposes. Sending a message to hospitals facilitating urgent and immediate action will reinforce efforts hospitals and their communities are presently undertaking to increase preparedness.


Rick Pollack
Executive Vice President

Cc:  D.A. Henderson, MD, Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness


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