06.14.06

Burr Calls for Action to Improve Emergency Care in America

Upcoming Senate bioterrorism reauthorization legislation will address concerns in Institute of Medicine report released today

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Richard Burr today called for action to improve the state of emergency care in America citing the Institute of Medicine's comprehensive report on the future of emergency care.

The Institute of Medicine report released today calls for a more coordinated, regionalized, and accountable emergency care system. The report found that this vision for emergency care is impeded because the federal programs that support emergency health care are not centralized, and dispersed among the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Transportation (DOT), and Homeland Security (DHS).

"I am pleased the Institute of Medicine did this research and produced this helpful report. It shows that across the nation our emergency care system has difficulty meeting the current pressures it must contend with. If our emergency rooms are strapped now, how will they provide emergency care in the event of a medical disaster?" Burr said. "We must restructure the federal programs that affect emergency medical response and make sure there is one person in charge at HHS. The Senate needs to reauthorize the bioterrorism legislation to ensure an effective all-hazards medical response in the case of a disaster."

According to the report, emergency rooms across the country are increasingly overcrowded, the waits are long, and the transport by EMS units is fragmented. There is a widening gap between the demands on the system and the capacity to provide adequate care.

Over the last ten years, emergency department visits have increased by 26% while fully functional emergency departments decreased by nearly10%. These are staggering statistics since trauma is the leading cause of death in the United States for people under age 45. For America's emergency care systems to function properly, the report recommends that Congress establish a lead federal agency for emergency and trauma care at HHS.

Senator Burr is leading a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. This bill will improve the quality and delivery of emergency care during a disaster. For example, the legislation will clearly identify a federal official in charge of public health and medical preparedness and response at HHS.

This bill will reauthorize over $1 billion in federal funding for hospital and public health preparedness and ensure accountability, regional coordination, and progress measured through evidence-based benchmarks. It also will improve our ability to rapidly distribute drugs and vaccines to the public in case of an emergency. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was very difficult for health care volunteers to sign up to help. The bill will ensure that health care providers who volunteer to help in a medical emergency can use an accessible, user-friendly sign up process.

"I am hopeful this report will increase awareness of America's need for an improved public health and medical response system," Burr said.

Senator Burr is chairman of the Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness.

For more information go to https://www.burr.senate.gov



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