The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) was passed in December 2006 and has great implications for preparedness and response activities of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) during emergencies.
The main purpose of the act is to “to improve the Nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response capabilities for emergencies, whether deliberate, accidental, or natural.”
This act amends the Public Health Service Act and addresses public health emergency preparedness and response activities. It also helps in promoting the development of new vaccines that can be used to fight pandemics and epidemics.
The PAHPA was reauthorized on June 24, 2019 by President Trump who renamed it to the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 (PAHPAIA). This act reauthorized the original PAHPA of 2006 and authorized over $7 billion to the development of new vaccines that can fight antibiotic resistant bacteria. In addition, it also aims to fight off pandemics and epidemics.
This law also improves the support that’s already available to the medical facilities in the country under the Hospital Preparedness Program. There are more than 31,000 medical facilities currently under the program. Through this, medical facilities and healthcare services can reach the local communities. This way, during a disaster, it’s possible to give coordinated health and medical care to people throughout the country.
In addition, the PAHPAIA also empowers the state health departments by giving them the flexibility to dedicate staff resources for the critical needs of their communities during disasters. Whenever the HHS declares a public health emergency, the states can ask for the temporary deployment of state personnel. The salaries of these personnel will be directly funded by the HHS partly or entirely. However, these personnel will be those whose daily jobs won’t be directly related to emergency preparedness.
For instance, staff who have received federal funding for educating people on swine flu may be deployed temporarily to help with influenza during an epidemic.
However, many disasters can be catastrophic, and they would need direct federal support. With this law in place, citizens can lie back without any worries. This is because it brings together medical professionals, services, equipment, and more to the affected areas.
This way, hospitals, shelters, and local communities are all supported by the federal system.
The Law in Action
PAHPA has showed the path ahead in healthcare during epidemics and disasters. Since the past two hurricane seasons, professionals have cared for more than 40,000 patients across the states. They have done so by providing basic medical support to residents at emergency shelters and hospitals. In places where hospitals and nursing homes were damaged, they gave even more complex health support.
In addition, the law amends other legislation and paves the way for a 10-year authorization of the Project BioShield Special Reserve Fund. This fund has already been crucial in the development of ten new medical products that have also managed to get FDA approval. Additionally, it has helped in adding fifteen new medications, treatments, and vaccines to the Strategic National Stockpile.
As mentioned before, the new law aims to bridge gaps. It does so by improving communication between healthcare services and medical facilities. Currently, the entities in the Hospital Preparedness Program use many different systems. The same applies to the ones under the National Medical Disaster System.
For this, Congress has instructed the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to review all the existing systems. Through this review, they’ve to find all the possible ways through which coordination, information sharing, and accountability can be improved.
Current State of the National Medical Disaster System
The act also acknowledges the fact that there may be a potential shortage of medically-trained professionals in the country during disasters. For this, it’s ordered a review of the medical surge capacities. This will help in identifying any gaps in workforce availability and help in reducing them.
The act also looks into the effectiveness of current recruitment and training policies. It also emphasizes on reviewing the at-risk groups and CDC’s Children’s Preparedness Unit. Additionally, the review will check how well the hospitals have managed to protect children in recent disasters.
The PAHPA is a great law aimed at improving medical care during disasters and pandemics. The reauthorized PAHPAIA takes this one step further and looks into improving on everything from the current scenario. It’ll help in streamlining communication to ensure that better healthcare is provided during such dire situations. Additionally, it’ll improve the pace of developing medical products to fight off pandemics and epidemics. Lastly, its in-depth review of the current state of things will help in enhancing disaster responsiveness.