OIG: States are Unprepared for Emergencies
In 2002, less than a year after 9/11, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made available more than $7 billion in funding to increase state and local public health preparedness and emergency response capabilities. In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) allocated $766 million of that to 62 awardees to meet nine out of 11 preparedness requirements for Preparedness Goal 3: Detect and Report through its Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement (Cooperative Agreement). Six years later, with the completion goal of 2010 less than two years away, less than 10 percent of states have met two of the nine requirements, concludes the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in an October 2008 report.
Preparedness Goal 3: Detect and Report focuses on public health laboratory testing and reporting of biological threats. The goal contains two required critical tasks with a total of 11 requirements. The OIG found all states meeting at least three of the requirements, but no state met all nine of the requirements considered in the review.
For most of this goal, state public health laboratories must coordinate with private clinical labs, or sentinel labs, that perform preliminary testing and ship specimens to the state.
All states met Requirement 6, which is to ensure availability of a Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) facility, but only 6 percent of states reported meeting Requirement 1: maintaining a sentinel laboratory database.
In the report, the OIG recommends the CDC determine why less than 10 percent of states conducted tests of their sentinel laboratories’ shipping capabilities outside of regular business hours and provide assistance to increase the number of tests and also ensure states use a consistent method to identify sentinel labs to include in their database and that the databases include all required elements. The CDC concurred.