National Disaster Medical System's Reliance on Civilian-Based Medical Response Teams in a Pandemic is Unsound
Delaney, John B.
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The world is threatened with a pandemic, an event considered to be the greatest public health risk, with the potential to kill as many as forty to fifty million people, sicken hundreds of millions, and significantly impact the global economy. Countries and health organizations throughout the world are monitoring the threat and developing strategic plans and systems to prepare for the inevitable and possibly imminent event of a pandemic. The United States has made it a national priority to develop strategic plans to coordinate preparedness and response efforts at the federal, state, and local levels. A relatively small but critical aspect within these plans calls for the utilization of the National Disaster Medical System's civilian-based medical teams, to assist state and local governments in the event of a pandemic. Generally, past deployments of these federal assets have had positive results; however, the reliance on these civilian-based medical teams for response in a pandemic is unsound. The medical professionals, who primarily comprise the team, may be reluctant to participate in a pandemic due to the increased health risks to themselves and their families. Moreover, the hospitals and medical systems that employ these civilian responders may be unwilling or unable to allow their participation in the federal response system. The federal government should reconsider its reliance on this civilian-based resource in the event of a pandemic, and focus instead on enhancing existing state and local public health and medical capabilities and resources.
This article appeared in Homeland Security Affairs (June 2007), v.3 no.2
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