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HHS taps Emory and its collaborators to lead regional disaster response system

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Janet Christenbury
Emory Healthcare
Alexandra Steele
University of Georgia
Jennifer Hilliard Scott
Augusta University/Medical College of Georgia

An Emory-led consortium will work to demonstrate how a newly designated Regional Disaster Health Response System can improve medical surge and clinical specialty capabilities during a national emergency.

Emory University will lead a team of collaborators from the Georgia Department of Public Health, Augusta University and the University of Georgia for the most recently designated Regional Disaster Health Response System (RDHRS). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) has awarded a $3 million cooperative agreement to the Emory-led consortium to demonstrate how an RDHRS can improve medical surge and clinical specialty capabilities – including trauma, burn, communicable diseases, radiation injury and other specialty care – during a national emergency and save more lives.

The RDHRS is anchored in the successful collaboration facilitated by the state-coordinated local health care coalitions creating a tiered system of disaster care. The collaborative will work to integrate local medical response capabilities with emergency medical services, specialty care centers, labs, and outpatient services to meet the often overwhelming health care needs created by disasters. The regional sites collaborate, facilitate information exchanges and develop contingencies to coordinate health care assets, including staff and supplies in the region.

“We appreciate HHS’s recognition of Emory’s leadership and our region’s collaborative approach to emergency response, which strengthens our capabilities across disciplines and ultimately saves lives,” says Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, Emory’s executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of Emory Healthcare.

Emory is the fourth regional demonstration site to be established. HHS/ASPR also has funded Nebraska Medical Center, Massachusetts General and Denver Health and Hospital Authority. All four regional recipients will build or continue to expand systems that collaborate in disaster response to support clinical specialty care; align plans, policies, and procedures for clinical excellence in disasters; increase statewide and regional medical surge capacity; improve statewide and regional situational awareness; and develop metrics and test the regional system’s capabilities.

“Natural and human-made disasters can cause hundreds or thousands of people to seek immediate medical care,” says Alexander Isakov, MD, MPH, professor in Emory’s Department of Emergency Medicine and executive director of Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR).

“Our regional partners have a successful track record of coordinating resources. This cooperative agreement with ASPR will enable us to better assess current regional capabilities, enhance procedures for bi-directional information exchange and will help to improve surge capacity and community access necessary to manage large-scale disasters and those requiring specialized clinical care. The Southern RDHRS aims to optimize clinical surge capacity, provide clinical expertise to support health care surge planning, and ensure that appropriate clinical expertise is involved and empowered as a collaborator in emergency planning and response,” says Isakov.

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