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Jed Boal ReportingThe nation's top doctor says we have a long way to go as a nation before we can say we are prepared for any and all health emergencies. The Assistant Secretary for Health addressed that issue in Salt Lake today at a regional workshop on the future of emergency care.
The Assistant Secretary of Health is the Secretary's primary advisor on matters involving the nation's public health -- a pandemic flu outbreak, or bioterrorism, for example. Today he told a regional gathering of doctors and medical professionals that we're all responsible for making the emergency response system better,
During the last five years America has asked itself many questions about emergency preparedness. Early this summer, national reports set off an alarm. The Institute of Medicine released three reports on in-hospital care, Emergency Medical Care and pediatric emergency medicine. The conclusion is the American emergency care system is in critical condition, stretched to the breaking point and unprepared to handle a major disaster.
Admiral John Agwunobi, Assistant Secretary for Health, spoke at the first of four regional workshops to discuss reshaping emergency medicine.
Admiral John O. Agwunobi, M.D.: "We have a long way to go before we can say we are prepared for any and every hazard"
Natural and manmade disasters, hurricanes and terrorism are part of realistic planning. Among the key recommendations of the reports are a significant increase in federal resources for emergency preparedness and greater coordination among hospital emergency departments and first responders.
Dr. Agwunobi says there were preparedness plans in place before 9-11, but September 11th was a call to action.
Admiral John O. Agwunobi, M.D.: "It rallied people beyond the usual suspects in terms of preparedness to the fray. It brought industry, schools and made them partners in our efforts to prepare."
He says the billions of dollars invested makes us better prepared today than ten years ago. During a disaster, emergency medical professionals will take the lead, but trained volunteers, many in the community, will fill critical roles.
Admiral John O. Agwunobi, M.D.: "A truly robust and sustained system needs to be supported by the community it serves. It needs to be supported and understood by local government, state government and federal government."
Dr. Agwunobi points out the process of preparing a nation does not happen overnight. Preparedness has no end point; once we get to a level set as a goal, there will be new levels of preparedness to achieve.