WV needs to do more to prepare for health emergencies, report says
December 20, 2012 ·
A report released Wednesday by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is giving West Virginia a poor grade on how well it is prepared for public health emergencies.
The report uses ten indicators to study how well each state in the country prepares for public health emergencies.
West Virginia received a score of five, out of possible ten.
West Virginia was credited for response readiness, specifically, notifying and assembling the right personnel to respond to an incident, but the report says the state didn’t maintain or increase funding for public health programs, from the fiscal year 2010-2011 to the fiscal year 2011-2012.
Paul Keuhnhert is the director of the public health team at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"We are facing funding cuts in public health from both the state, local and federal levels, so that as we’ve seen has eroded some of the capacities for health departments to maintain their core services," said Keuhnhert.
West Virginia has experienced a great deal of emergencies in the last year, from the derecho storm in late June to to the storms brought in by Hurricane Sandy.
Jeff Levi with the Trust for America’s Health says preparedness is extremely important.
"I think we’ve reached a point that constantly doing more with less, there’s a limit on what can be achieved there, and how much you can do. It’s a pay now or pay later situation," Levi said.
"You can pay now up front and invest in making sure that we have the systems in place to protect people, or we can spend a lot more money dealing with an immediate disaster. The government checkbooks open up in the middle of a disaster, but a lot of that money could have been saved if we had done a lot more work up front."
The report also states West Virginia doesn’t have accreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program, and doesn’t participate in a nurse licensure compact.
"Twenty-six states and Washington D.C. do not have nurse licensure compacts, which allows nurses to be licensed to practice in other participating states when needed," said Levi.
"The issue of whether health professionals are licensed to practice in other states was a problem during Superstorm Sandy, when some medical professionals couldn’t help out across state lines, even when they were a few miles apart, because of licensing concerns."
While no state received a perfect grade in the report, 30 states received a better grade than West Virginia, including neighboring Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.
The two states with the lowest scores were Kansas and Montana.