Taylor’s Take: Healthcare Coalitions Benefit the Public

Iris A. Taylor, PhD, RN

Iris A. Taylor, PhD, RN

From time to time I will share this space with some of the physicians of DMC Detroit Receiving Hospital so that you can hear about some of the fine work they do.  I’ve invited Dr. Jenny Atas, a senior emergency physician at Receiving, to share her insights about the healthcare coalitions she supervises in southeast Michigan.  Dr. Atas has a number of titles that involve mass disaster emergency mobilization.  She is the elected head of the first responders who staff our ambulances, the medical director of the disaster preparedness group of 122 agencies united under the title “Region 2 South” and medical director of DEMCA, the Detroit East Medical Control Authority.  She is executive director for medical operations at the Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, the Detroit Free Press  annual marathon and all special events coverage for the DMC.  She was recently asked to serve on two federal committees involved with public health emergency preparedness:

  • Invited Subject Matter Expert, EMS Stakeholders, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthcare Preparedness Activity (CDC-HPA), Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (DOT-NHTSA), Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).
  • Public Health and Medical Advisory Group for Radiation Injury, for Assistant  Secretary of Preparedness and Response

Emergency Healthcare Coalitions Offer Year-Round Benefits

I am the medical director of Region 2 South, the southeastern section of Michigan that represents 37 hospitals and 85 EMS agencies that respond to emergencies and other public health crises.  The healthcare coalition represented by Region 2 South and others were created after 9-11 by the Office of Public Health Preparedness from Michigan Department of Community Health to create a unified, integrated response to public health threats and emergencies.  While the regions perform regular drills and create processes for sharing resources during emergencies, the healthcare coalitions have proven invaluable for public health (non-terrorist related) emergencies.

Jenny Atas, MD

Jenny Atas, MD

Last fall, an outbreak of meningitis from tainted steroids affected hundreds of people throughout the country.  However, due to the volume of patients near Ann Arbor, St. Joseph Mercy Healthcare System became the focus of support from Region 2 South’s healthcare coalition.  The hospital required additional beds and nurses, which the coalition provided.  Due to the seriousness of the event and the great threat to public health, the coalition was activated to support the one system that was rapidly becoming the national expert on the outbreak and its treatment.

There are significant return on investment that can be derived from healthcare coalitions that benefit the entire community.  Large-scale tornadoes could trigger an equivalent response.  No single healthcare system can afford to form and maintain such a response.  Region 2 South is incorporated as a nonprofit organization, allowing the coalition to purchase supplies in bulk and at a government rate for all 37 hospitals.

Through continuous drills and process improvements, the coalitions have developed:

  • Better coordination of care for the benefit of all;
  • Support systems for information dissemination;
  • Caches of equipment for emergency use;
  • A portable self-sustaining 100- bed mobile emergency field hospital, complete with negative pressure isolation, lab and x-ray capabilities and self-sustaining oxygen supply; and
  • An enhanced state of preparation.

Currently, the healthcare coalitions are funded through 2017 by the hospital preparedness program under the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  These valuable partnerships provide the infrastructure for helping the entire community during any kind of public emergency.

I look forward to your comments.

Sincerely,

Jenny Atas, MD

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