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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


In High Demand: How Health Centers Can Build Surge Capacity, Support People with Access and Functional Needs, and Advance National Health Security

Author: ASPR/OPP Division of Policy and Strategic Planning
Published Date: 8/2/2017 10:34:00 AM
Category: National Health Security; Hospital Preparedness; Public Health Preparedness;

Our nation’s network of nearly 1,400 community health centers play a vital role in providing health care services to almost 25 million patients, including 8.4 million patients in rural health centers. When a disaster strikes, they have a key role in supporting national health security by continuing to provide services to the people they care for every day.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, community health centers serve 1 out of every 3 people living in poverty in the U.S. They provide care to people with a wide range of access and functional needs, including people with limited English proficiency, those who rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, and people with chronic conditions. They promote prenatal health and they serve people from infancy to old age.

Community health centers represent a unique focus for surge capacity because they sit on the front lines of health in the communities they serve. As a usual place of care, health centers represent sites where patients may be in the first stages of a disaster. Community health centers and other outpatient facilities also play a vital role in addressing the needs of patients with both acute and chronic conditions, reducing stress on hospital emergency rooms. In order for the centers to protect health and save lives when disaster strikes, they need to have a robust plan to sustain their operations and handle a surge of patients.

The first step in addressing medical surge and medical system resiliency is to implement systems that can effectively manage medical and health response, as well as the development and maintenance of preparedness programs. Preparing for medical surge and other issues in a disaster takes a multi-faced approach. The 2017-2022 Health Care Preparedness and Response Capabilities guidance describes what the health care delivery system, including health care centers, have to do to effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies that impact the public’s health.

Focusing on asset management, resource allocation, and coalition coordination are three central elements to building a Medical Surge Capacity and Capability (MSCC) Management System. The HHS Medical Surge Capacity and Capability Guide offers a methodology for community health centers and healthcare facilities alike to plan for resilient surge capacity.

Community health centers should also consider ways that they can partner with other health care entities in their community, like hospitals, public health, emergency management, emergency medical services, state agencies, and other health care and community organizations. These partnerships are forged through health care coalitions, a collaborative network of health care organizations and their respective public and private sector emergency response partners.

Health care coalitions are comprised of a wide variety of partners, including but not limited to hospitals, emergency medical services, emergency management and public health agencies that serve as a multiagency coordinating group to assist with preparedness, detection, response, recovery, and mitigation activities related to healthcare service delivery during a disaster or large scale emergency.

There are nearly 500 health care coalitions throughout the nation. Working together, community health centers, along with other members of health care coalitions, can enhance emergency operations and define ways that they can support one another before, during and after a disaster. Withstanding disaster means our health care centers and entire health care infrastructure can care for people even in the worst of times, and that, in turn, advances our national health security. To get started, check out these planning resources.

For more information on national health security, visit


Dialysis Center Preparedness

I have over 25 years of experience in the dialysis industry and nearly 7 in emergency management for healthcare & local government. I am still at a loss why the new CMS rule did not require dialysis centers to have generator back-up & water storage systems. If the is a major power outage emergency that last for any length of time the impact to ESRD patients will be significant. This impact will not be able to be absorbed by the local hospitals. Dialysis centers need to be prepared to continue to provide services for up to 72 hours. This would require generators and back-up water storage to allow tankers to deliver water. Power & water is what is needed to keep dialysis centers running. Renal patients will present a significant impact to the healthcare system if the dialysis centers are unable to provide services.
8/8/2017 3:36:22 PM

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