AHRQ Views: Blog posts from AHRQ leaders
Pulling Together In a Time of Need
Together with others across the country, we at AHRQ have watched with concern as residents of Texas and now Louisiana grapple with the effects of Hurricane Harvey and what is now the single largest rain event in U.S. history. Our hearts go out to the individuals and families impacted by the storm, along with the first responders, State, local, and Federal officials, and others seeking to provide immediate help.
In the days ahead, the top priority for everyone—as it should be—will be providing relief and shelter to people who have been displaced from their homes and businesses, along with addressing the health concerns that come with a hurricane of this magnitude. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price and key officials from HHS have been on the frontline of efforts to alleviate the suffering caused by Hurricane Harvey.
While traveling with President Trump to see the effects first hand, Secretary Price has emphasized partnering with State leaders in Texas and Louisiana to identify how the Department can best support their efforts. In addition, the Secretary yesterday declared public health emergencies in Texas and Louisiana to accelerate assistance to those in need. Further, HHS has dispatched more than 550 personnel to the region with 1,300 more on standby if needed. More details about HHS' activities are on the Department's website.
As the immediate aftermath stretches into what will be a very long and difficult recovery, other needs may emerge. Officials in Texas and Louisiana will potentially be faced with how to expand their ability to help citizens with health-related challenges or other concerns. For instance, how will individuals get the medicines that they need or continue receiving treatments for chronic conditions?
That could mean examining the health delivery infrastructure in those States and the capacity for providers and public health officials to ensure that patients receive services under challenging circumstances. It may also mean that there will be a premium on information that can guide those who will be making critical decisions about how to go forward.
We at AHRQ stand ready to do all we can by providing information and tools that can help when those critical decisions loom large. For instance, we have just reissued a resource that we first made available in the days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005—the Surge Toolkit and Facility Checklist. This resource gives emergency responders and public health officials useful, practical tools for opening shuttered hospitals when an emergency is underway and additional facilities are needed for treating patients. In addition, we have also reissued the resource Hospital Evacuation Decision Guide for Public Health Emergency Preparedness to help officials confirm when it's necessary to evacuate a medical facility regardless of its usefulness in providing patient care. A third report and related interactive computer tools, Disaster Alternate Care Facilities: Report and Interactive Tools, will help institutions and communities select alternate care facilities and determine which patients to send to them. These resources are on a new page on AHRQ's website devoted to these tools.
In addition, at some point, data on how other disasters like Hurricane Harvey have impacted health care providers may be useful in planning for the months ahead. AHRQ has rich sources of data, such as AHRQ's Health Care Cost and Utilization Project, that can help in understanding what hospitals and others may expect in the future.
Crises like Hurricane Harvey test the mettle of us as a country and challenge each of us, along with the organizations that we're a part of, to step up and contribute what we have to offer for those most in need. Pulling together, we can make a difference, now and in the future.
Gopal Khanna is Director of AHRQ.