Sunday, October 22, 2006

Elizabeth Weeks on disasters and health care policy

Emergency health workersElizabeth Weeks
The impact of natural disasters on health care policy remains poorly documented. Newly arrived Jurisdynamics Network contributor Elizabeth Weeks is establishing herself as a leading expert in this field. Two of her recent papers attest to her prowess:

Disaster planning for health care providers following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and, more recently, Hurricane Katrina, focuses on preparing hospitals and other emergency services to respond to victims' medical needs. But little attention has been paid to the challenges that providers would face resuming normal operations after responding to the catastrophe. A large-scale catastrophe could create unprecedented demand for health care and emergency services. Hospitals already struggle to fulfill the high demand for and high costs of emergency care. Following a major disaster, hospitals would face additional financial challenges. Strained capacity and financial reserves, may force hospitals to close, just as occurred with the two largest public hospitals in New Orleans, following Katrina. To prevent the initial crisis of a terrorist-related or natural disaster from spiraling into a lasting crisis in access to medical care, this Article proposes a three-part federal disaster relief program for hospitals to be implemented before the next catastrophe.

2. Lessons from Katrina: Response Recovery and the Public Health Infrastructure, 10 DePaul J. Health Care L. (forthcoming 2007):
Following the catastrophic events of 2005, including Hurricane Katrina, Pakistani Earthquakes, bird flu transmission to human populations, and the real threat of bioterrorism, government struggled in the aftermath to make sense of the devastation and human displacement. Medical teams, try as they might, are not always prepared and alerted as to how best investigate and quickly render assistance. [DePaul University's Symposium on Shaping a New Direction for Law and Medicine: An International Debate on Culture, Disaster, Biotechnology & Public Health] addressed the role of government, policy-makers, community organizations, the World Health Organization and other key players in properly situating and providing relief to respond to these issues. My paper describes both the immediate and lasting impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Region's health care infrastructure and recommends aproaches to prevent similar devastting effects in future disasters.

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