Health centers have become adept at responding to natural disasters and other trauma events since their response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the last year alone, health centers have been at the forefront providing primary care services in the wake of multiple hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. In a new report, Medical Surge and the Role of Health Clinics, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (TRACIE), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, highlights the unique role health centers can and do play in emergency preparedness and response. The report also outlines opportunities to improve preparedness.
This is the first time ASPR has specifically assessed health center readiness.
“After last year’s hurricanes, NACHC entered into communications with ASPR-TRACIE in an effort to ensure health centers were aware of their resources and vice versa,” said Jason Patnosh, Associate Vice President of Partnership and Resource Development at NACHC.
The report indicates that while many health centers are involved in coordinating with community partners and health care coalitions, promoting active health center involvement and developing emergency plans that are inclusive of health centers could go a long way to improving preparedness and response
Also among the report’s key findings were:
- Health centers’ preventive and disease management services can make communities better prepared and more resilient, lower the burden on emergency departments during surge responses, and enable them to provide follow-up and monitoring during disaster recovery
- Health centers have varied capacity and resources for emergency response
- The health center role has not yet been clearly defined at the local, state, or federal levels
- Health centers would benefit from additional training and technical assistance to support implementation efforts
“Health centers have a tradition of responding to needs in communities,” said Tina Wright, Director of Emergency Management at the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and Co-Chair of the Primary Care Association Emergency Management Advisory Coalition. “It’s not a new thing, we’ve always done it. It’s just never been categorized as emergency response before.”
NACHC recently released a series of blogs related to health center emergency preparedness and response. Catch up here.