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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 3, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 10
CEPAR Receives $3.5 Million in Grants for Disaster Response Plans

By Neil A. Grauer
Johns Hopkins Medicine

The Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response has received federal grants totaling $3.5 million to develop plans for health system response to bioterrorism and other disasters, including infectious disease outbreaks.

Among the grants was one awarded to Gabor D. Kelen, director of CEPAR and chair of the Johns Hopkins Department of Emergency Medicine, who received $1 million from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to develop a system that pre-identifies those hospital patients who would be at minimal risk if immediately discharged in order to provide space for incoming patients who are the victims of bioterrorism or other disasters.

Previous "surge capacity" efforts have focused on screening and initiating treatment for incoming patients, as well as on the ability of hospital emergency departments to handle a sudden influx of victims, Kelen said. "But the reality is that, at least initially, hospitals will bear the brunt of caring for the sick and injured, and inpatient capacity may become severely constrained during a bioterror event that requires isolation of patients and thus forces the closure of beds or wards normally open to general patients."

Rather than "the current ad hoc method of identifying patients" for early dismissal after a disaster occurs, Kelen said, "there is a need to develop a generalized, easy-to-apply method to predesignate hospitalized patients suitable for early discharge, should a disaster require the creation of hospital surge capacity."

Gary Green, also of the Department of Emergency Medicine, received another $1 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to develop and test a Web-based technology to train a large number of community health care providers in bioterrorism and disaster response.

Kelen said that although the need to swiftly train all health care workers in critical event preparedness is widely recognized, the "tools for rapid, inexpensive and task-appropriate training do not currently exist." Green's project will create standard, "best practice" educational content for training community clinicians in bioterrorism and disaster response, using traditional teaching techniques and also employing Web-based technology, with each method ready for nationwide use. These programs would be similar to those used by Johns Hopkins to train employees to comply with the new federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which provides regulations to protect the privacy of patient health information.

Kelen said that another Hopkins Emergency Department expert, Richard Rothman, has received a $1.05 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to conduct a five-year study on the rapid detection of blood-borne and pulmonary infectious diseases by using the latest universal bacterial and viral microbiologic diagnostics. Funding for this award comes under a $40 million multi-institutional programmatic award — a Research Center of Excellence — led by Myron Levine of the University of Maryland and Donald Burke of Johns Hopkins and includes leading investigators in various fields, such as infectious diseases and microbiology, both within and outside the institution.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Emergency Preparedness has given a $500,000 grant to CEPAR to develop a model for regional surge capacity plans and a generic template for implementing regional surge capacity systems in different areas of the country. James Scheulen, administrator for CEPAR and for the Department of Emergency Medicine, will oversee this project, Kelen said.

"A key component of CEPAR's mission is to serve as a model medical/public health disaster response office and to develop systems and procedures for critical event response that can be adapted for use in other major metropolitan areas, nationally and worldwide," Kelen said. "We are pleased that the AHRQ and the Department of Health and Human Services recognize the advances we already have achieved."


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