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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


National Disaster Medical System: Bringing More Than Teams of Professional Medical Providers

Author: Ron Miller, Ph.D., Director, National Disaster Medical System, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 2/13/2019 10:35:00 AM
Category: Response & Recovery; Public Health Preparedness; Exercises & Trainings;

The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) has a heroic, yet complex, mission to save lives and protect Americans. When disaster strikes, it’s potentially the worst day in the lives of hundreds – if not thousands – of people. Therefore, our mobilization, implementation, and execution need to be streamlined and seamless.

However, we never rest on our laurels. We are constantly training and identifying gaps within the preparedness and response framework to better mobilize when the inevitable ultimately occurs. NDMS has identified three pillars to expand the service’s capabilities and provide a robust response anytime, anywhere.

  • A Pediatric Disaster Care Program: In fiscal year 2019, NDMS will help create a Pediatric Disaster Care Program, an important first step needed to establish a National Disaster Pediatric Network. This program  will assist in identifying current capacity gaps throughout the country and what NDMS may be able to support through its enhanced infrastructure, which will include two Pediatric Centers of Excellence. The Pediatric Centers of Excellence will be placed strategically around the country to ensure the most vulnerable population receives the best care during public health emergencies, increased equipment capacity to support the specific pediatric requirements during a disaster, and enhanced training and exercises for NDMS responders. In fiscal year 2020, NDMS will review recommendations from this pediatric network and engage its stakeholders and federal partners to further increase capacity of pediatric support.
  • Medical Care for Infectious Disease Patients: Through innovative concepts and collaborative efforts with the National Ebola Training and Education Center including the University of Nebraska Medical Center, NDMS has established two additional components of its infectious disease treatment capabilities:  isolation and quarantine services, and infectious disease patient transport that will provide medical care for those diagnosed with a severe infectious disease while they are transported to medical facilities.
  • Aeromedical Patient Transport: Adding to the NDMS patient movement mission capabilities, NDMS has trained more than 200 doctor, nurses, respiratory therapists, and some other types of clinicians for air medical evacuation to operate alongside Defense Department counterparts on military aircraft.  NDMS is also building its own air transport capability so it can autonomously move patient using civilian aircraft as needed. By working side-by-side with the Defense Department, NDMS and the Military Health System can network, develop best practices, and serve as force multipliers in disasters.

Aside from these new initiatives, we have a few more novel concepts, plans, and service lines underway that are designed to create efficiencies and close gaps. We expect to rollout details of those projects over the next few months and years.

At NDMS, we’re not just bringing teams, we’re bringing capabilities.

The challenge is integration and sustainment. When it comes to medical care, a “good enough” response isn’t good enough. We strive for a seamless, strategic, and coordinated response with local, state and private sector personnel and assets so that, together, we are providing the care and services the American people expect and deserve. We’re there to save lives.

Emergency managers can contact an ASPR regional emergency coordinator to learn more about how to incorporate our new and our tried-and-true NDMS capabilities into response plans.


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