Report highlights lack of emergency preparedness on state level

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – With the COVID-19 pandemic underway for nearly a year, one might think that the country is better prepared should another major disease outbreak happen.

But a new report by Trust for America’s Health published Wednesday suggests that that isn’t the case.

The report tracks the country’s level of public health emergency preparedness dating back to 2003 and shows that across the board, major cuts have been made to state and local public health systems.

President John Aurbach with Trust for America’s Health says that the cuts have made the country vulnerable for future disasters or disease.

“What we found is that the public health system which is responsible for protecting the public and overseeing emergency preparedness has been chronically underfunded so that year after year budgets go down, in state and local levels, and at the same time more emergencies occur,” explains Aurbach.

Aurbach says that pouring money in the midst of a crisis only leads to an excess number of death and illness, and that states like Tennessee should heed the warning and invest for the long term.

“You end up having excess illnesses and deaths when you’re investing only at the point that you’re in the midst of it. Investing in the long term strength of public health systems might be the best takeaway that we’ve learned,” he says.

Robbie Tester, the Senior Director of Emergency Preparedness at Erlanger, says that on a local level, hospitals like his are well prepared for future emergencies.

“We started preparing for the COVID virus to come into our area four or five months prior to it really becoming obvious in Hamilton County. We did table top exercises, kind of planned for surge, ICU capacity, ventilator usage, those things way before it happened,” says Tester.

He says that him and his team regularly meet to discuss prospects of not just future pandemics, but natural disasters like tornadoes, floods, and even acts of terrorism.

“We routinely meet to talk about natural disasters. Tornadoes, floods, things of those nature in addition to acts of terrorism – whether that be domestic or international, as well as radiological, biological terrorism. Any of those things.”

The report is available on TFAH’s website.

Categories: Chattanooga, Local News

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