Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and the Department of Health of Puerto Rico will lead a functional exercise for hurricane preparedness on Thursday, June 24, with seven health care institutions in the Mayagüez healthcare region and the emergency management zones of Mayagüez and Aguadilla.
“We have been working together with the Puerto Rico Department of Health and experts from other federal agencies to support the long-term recovery process in Puerto Rico following the devastating hurricanes of 2017,” said HHS’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations and Resources Jon Greene. “The healthcare system in Puerto Rico has made tremendous progress to be better prepared and ready to confront disasters. Exercises like the one this week are designed to test that readiness for moderate- to catastrophic-level emergencies to help save lives.”
“The activation of the HUB & Spoke response model in Mayagüez is one of the mechanisms that the Puerto Rico Department of Health uses to respond to an emergency that compromises the health service delivery system at the island level,” said Puerto Rico Department of Health Secretary Dr. Carlos Mellado. “In conjunction with the Puerto Rico Health Services Coalition, we envision the integration of this structure with a view to improving emergency response and recovery processes.”
The seven healthcare institutions were designated as Hubs and Spokes in the Mayagüez healthcare region. This exercise will demonstrate how the model will function to manage resources and deliver health care services as part of an emergency response network during disasters. Participants will stay in their respective facilities, and people and resource migration will be simulated.
The exercise will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Eastern. This exercise is the final step in a series of activities carried out in the region as part of the health and social services recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria's passage. HHS/ASPR facilitated discussions on regional vulnerabilities, risks and resource availability to develop a response and recovery operational guide with the Puerto Rico Department of Health. The regional assistance process also served to identify areas of opportunity for collaboration and liaising with agencies and organizations at local, state, and federal level. The procedures developed in this internal guide will be validated in the exercise to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
Local entities involved in this activity include the Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Bureau, the Mental Health and Addiction Services Administration, Puerto Rico Primary Health Association, Puerto Rico Seismic Network, and the Puerto Rico Medical Center's Trauma Center.
The exercise also features the participation of federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that the 2021 hurricane season will have above-normal activity with 13 – 20 named storms, six to ten of those storms becoming hurricanes, with three to five major hurricanes. During hurricane season, healthcare facilities are vulnerable to cross sector infrastructure failures, inadequate supplies to meet demand during medical surge, and lack of redundancy throughout the supply chain.
HHS works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. The mission of ASPR is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats.
*Photos of MRC volunteers responding to the COVID-19 pandemicare available on Flickr.
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