Casey: Hospitals Need Money to Fight Ebola

Hospital Preparedness Program funding has dropped in recent years.

In the wake of Ebola’s appearance on American soil, Sen. Bob Casey is calling on Congress to increase funding to a program that helps hospitals prepare for “epidemic emergencies.”

The New York Times reports:

Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, released a letter demanding more money for the Hospital Preparedness Program, the main federal effort to train local hospitals to properly use protective gear, set up isolation units and handle epidemic emergencies.

State grants from the Hospital Preparedness Program are currently funded at $255 million, less than half the 2004 level and well below the $375 million authorized by Congress last year. “It’s a red flag,” Mr. Casey said in an interview, pointing to a steep drop after the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration went into effect in early 2013. “Republicans have been having second thoughts on sequestration because they worry about the defense side, but this is one of the most significant programs to look at on the domestic side.”

Casey’s office issued a press release:

“We have to ensure that hospitals and medical facilities have the resources they need to protect public health,” Senator Casey said. “Chronic underfunding for vital public health programs like the Hospital Preparedness Program presents challenges for doctors and nurses in emergency situations. The drastic cuts that have hit the Hospital Preparedness Program should be reversed.”

And Huffington Post has some of the text of Casey’s letter:

“The news that a nurse who treated the Ebola patient in Texas has now become infected with the virus herself highlights the need for ongoing training and education for health care workers and drills and exercises for hospitals. Without an ongoing commitment to preparing for these events, and the funding to support training activities, we cannot adequately ensure that our health system is ready for Ebola or any other emergency,” Casey wrote. “Any response to a serious threat such as Ebola must include input from public health officials, hospitals, community health care providers, emergency responders and others. We must do all we can to promote full collaboration and appropriate planning in order to ensure a robust response, including funding HPP.”

No word on the prospects for actually reviving the funding.

Previously: Philadelphia International Airport Says It’s Prepared for Ebola
Previously: Newark Airport to Screen Arrivals for Ebola
Previously: This Philly Virus Expert Is Close to Finishing Ebola Vaccine