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Emergency Management Plans for Hospitals Participating in Medicare: Flawed Policy?


Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requiring that, "Participating [hospitals] providers and suppliers plan adequately for both natural and man-made disasters, and coordinate with federal, state, tribal, regional and local emergency preparedness systems." 

The idea that hospitals have to plan effectively for all types of disasters is extremely important for emergency management. After all, hospitals coming together in this fashion could manage disasters more effectively in theory. Thus, this recent policy is very important for how it will streamline emergency management efforts in both state and local communities.

Policies Are Tricky

Policies, in general, can be very tricky. The enactment of one policy can create waves of other issues potentially complicate other areas of society. While policies are often enacted to correct imbalances, they easily may create other issues that need correcting as well. Thus, this new policy enacted by the HHS must be carefully evaluated, especially after the policy has been in place for a while.

Is This Policy Flawed?

The recent HHS policy is great for hospitals that participate in Medicare, but what about the ones that don't? Certainly it makes sense for hospitals to have emergency plans, so shouldn't this policy be extended to all hospitals? It's rather curious that it isn't.

Sometimes policies like this only extend to organizations who receive federal funding, but we also know from community resiliency scholarship just how important community organizations are to managing and rebuilding from a disaster.

Will This Policy Help?

Emergency management plans are essential for any organization. When an organization takes the time to write out an emergency plan, they're mapping out how the people within the organization will handle a disaster. Naturally, plans are just plans - they're not going to make situations foolproof or stable, and they may not work at all to effectively manage a disaster.

James Lee Witt, the famous former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during the Clinton Administration wrote, "Any entity can be vulnerable to a man-made disaster." Witt continued to explain that emergency management plans should also include guides to managing personnel, resources and a communications plan - points he explained here.

Emergency management plans are important for keeping everyone involved on the same page in the midst of an emergency. The idea that Medicare-participating hospitals will need to have emergency plans is essential taking Witt's ideas into account. It will help to streamline emergency management efforts.

Waiting it Out 

Ultimately, how this policy actually affects emergency management is still unknown. The simple notion that Medicare hospitals will engage in the overall emergency management picture is important, and this policy will hopefully correct some emergency management problems that could not be corrected before.

Contingency plans are important and, ultimately, it is important for organizations to write these plans to keep their employees on the same page.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.