New York state ill-prepared for major pandemic breakout

Published 11 January 2006

New York state had better hope that no avian flu pandemic break, because the state is just not ready

If the bird flu epidemic or another major outbreak were to strike New York state, the state emergency health care system would be poorly prepared to handle a surge of patients, according to a report released yesterday. The national report card by the American College of Emergency Physicians does gave the state high marks in areas of public health and injury prevention, ranking New York first in the nation for its low incidence of fatal job-related injuries, second for its low incidence of fatalities in alcohol-related crashes and third for annual per capita expenditure on hospital care.

But that says nothing about the state’s ability to react to the bird flu,” said Sandra Schneider, ACEP board member and chair of the Department of Emergency Care at the University of Rochester. New York state received an overall C+ grade for its emergency care system, slightly higher than the C- rating given to the nation as a whole. The state was ranked 30th in its ratio of board-certified emergency room doctors to 100,000 people and ranked 49th with only 7.7 emergency departments for every 1 million people.

Very upsetting:

The U.S. overall grade on health emergency preparedness: C-

We would probably be upset if one of our children came home with a grade of C- in basket weaving or ballroom dancing. How upset should we be when the governments of the fifty states receive a C- on the ability of the United States to cope effectively with emergency health crises such as pandemic or bioterror attacks? If you say we should be very upset, we would respond with that line from Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible”: “You’ve never seen me very upset.”

The National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine in the United States says in its report that the emergency medicine system of the United States as a whole has earned a grade of C- — barely above a D. This represents an average of the overall grades for all states and the District of Columbia, as well as data received from ACEP’s Government Services and Puerto Rico chapters. No state scored either an A or F for its overall grade. California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia led the nation with overall grades of B. Rating worst in the nation with overall grades of D+ or D were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. More than 80 percent of states earned poor or near-failing overall grades (C+ to D).

-read more at the organization’s Web site