How prepared are nation's hospitals?

The assessment of hospital preparedness varies depending on the type of disaster, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics. The 2008 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, which included 294 hospitals, found that:

• Almost all hospitals (more than 93%) had emergency response plans to address chemical accidents or attacks, natural disasters, epidemics or pandemics, and biological accidents or attacks.

• About 80% of hospitals had plans that covered nuclear or radiological accidents or attacks or explosive or incendiary accidents or attacks.

• About one in 10 hospitals did not have an internal disaster drill in the last year. Half conducted more than one internal drill.

• The median number of N95 masks per hospital was 432, and the median number of personal protective suits with powered air-purifying respirators per hospital was 10.

• Less than a third of hospitals (30.6%) addressed mass medication distribution to their personnel in their drills, and only about a third (32.5%) addressed mass vaccination.

• Hospitals were more likely to address general disaster scenarios in their drills than pandemics (58.5%) or chemical accidents or attacks (55.6%).

Source: National Health Statistics Reports: Hospital Preparedness for Emergency Response: United States, 2008. March 24, 2011. Available at http://bit.ly/rs3jdJ