Brussels attack: US hospitals step up disaster prep but leaders worry it's not enough

In the wake of yesterday's terrorist attack in Belgium, U.S. hospitals are working to ensure they're prepared for a similar mass-casualty event in America, but leaders are concerned budget cuts and lack of precautions may leave them short-handed in a worst-case scenario.

While hospitals in northeast Ohio say they're well-prepared for a disaster today, years of federal budget cuts for supplies and training have leaders concerned about future preparedness, according to Cleveland.com. The Center for Health Affairs, which works with more than 30 hospitals in the region, receives yearly Department of Health and Human Services grants to prepare for disaster situations. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, it received nearly $2 million, which has since dwindled to $800,000, according to Beth Gatlin, the Center's director of emergency preparedness.

Congress has justified the cuts by arguing the facilities that receive the funds are well-prepared enough to weather the loss. "The hospitals are well-prepared," Gatlin told the publication, "but the cuts bode badly for maintaining training and equipment."

Providers in Michigan are similarly making sure they have mass casualty plans in place, according to 9 & 10 News. Munson Medical Center in Traverse City requires its nurses and doctors to regularly train for a situation in which large numbers of patients enter the hospital at once, similar to disaster drills that helped Philadelphia-area hospitals respond quickly to the derailment of an Amtrak train last May.

At the micro level, however, many healthcare providers face a confidence gap, according to Executive Insight. A survey conducted after last November's terrorist attack in Paris found slightly under 1 in 3 emergency physicians and nurses thought their hospital had enough staff to be ready for such a situation, while only half said their facilities would have enough available surgeons in case of mass casualties.

To learn more:
- here's the Cleveland.com article
- read the 9 & 10 News article
- check out the Executive Insight article

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