Hospitals can't handle national emergency

May 6, 2008 at 10:32 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 6 (UPI) -- Emergency trauma centers in hospitals in seven major U.S. cities lack the ability to cope with even minor national emergencies, lawmakers said.

The U.S. House of Representatives released a report Monday examining the ability of 34 hospitals in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City and Washington to handle a national emergency.

The report found none of those cities' facilities had the ability to cope with a sudden influx of trauma patients following even a modest terrorist attack, USA Today said Tuesday.

"If a terrorist attack had occurred on March 25 when we did our survey, the consequences would have been catastrophic," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. "The emergency care systems were stretched to the breaking point and had no capacity to respond to a surge of victims."

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., countered by saying preparing for a major event that may or may not befall the United States is poor economic policy.

"We cannot afford to build and maintain idle trauma facilities, waiting for the tragic day we pray never comes," he said.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt testify before Waxman's Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday.

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