January 23, 2018

Senator Hassan Questions Medical Professionals about Public Health Preparedness in Event of Disasters like Hurricane Maria


Click here for video of the Senator’s questions.

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan questioned medical professionals during a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing today on the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) about the nation’s preparedness and response plans to address public health needs in the event of major disasters like Hurricane Maria. 

Senator Hassan pointed to the devastation Hurricane Maria caused in Puerto Rico and the impact on the supply of IV saline solution in New Hampshire and across the country. Senator Hassan asked, “what does this shortage say about our overall preparedness in case of a future event or other types of emergencies where medical supplies can’t be easily replenished?”

Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said “Yes, I agree with you completely that the Puerto Rico hurricane and other storms have revealed how vulnerable our supply systems are.” He suggested considering whether there are some critical medical supplies like saline bags – if they’re single-sourced to a part of the world - that should be included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Strategic National Stockpile.

Senator Hassan also highlighted the importance of ensuring that the Hospital Preparedness Program has robust funding and supports all states. Senator Hassan noted that New Hampshire uses its hospital preparedness funding to support a single, state-wide health care coalition that works to bring together public health and emergency management professionals to assure health care system preparedness across the spectrum of care – from hospitals to home care to long-term care and beyond. New Hampshire, like other states, relies on this funding to help make sure it’s prepared for all kinds of emergencies – from mass casualty incidents to hurricanes.

Asked if he agrees that we need to increase investments and collaboration in the Hospital Preparedness Program, and whether it should continue to fund all states, Dr. John J. Dreyzehner, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, said “Absolutely, yes.” He added that training health care professionals in responding to public health emergencies and helping develop professional relationships “are the critical things, those are the relationships built on trust, that the HPP funding really helps solidify. And unfortunately, when you reduce that funding, that’s one of the first things that goes.”