Government "ill-prepared" for disasters, provider group says

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Two recent Gulf Coast hurricanes revealed how ill-prepared federal and state emergency response systems can be, according to testimony from the nation's largest nursing home association.

"One of our major problems involve the extent to which buses and ambulances contracted by our facilities were commandeered, often by illogical decree – thereby totally undermining many facilities' evacuation plans," said Bruce Yarwood, acting president and CEO of American Health Care Association.

During a hearing on the Senate Special Committee on Aging this week, Yarwood said such shortcomings reflect deeper challenges. The nation must completely reevaluate and overhaul how to prepare for and deal with crises on the scale of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

Yarwood implored Congress to address five key areas: emergency communications, evaluation of individual facility preparedness, facility cooperation and support, use of electronic health records nationwide, and the establishment of protocols to improve interaction and coordination between all providers and local, state and federal governments.