Q & A with California Hospital Association

The California Hospital Association, the Sacramento-based industry group representing the state’s hospitals, has criticized aspects of a federal/state effort to collect earthquake preparedness data from facilities in Southern California. Federal and state agencies designed a survey sent to facilities in early 2011, but nearly half did not respond.

The association provided written answers in response to questions from the CHCF Center for Health Reporting on behalf of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group:

Q: Were the problems with the 2011 survey a first-time situation, or have similar problems occurred with state/federal efforts in the past?

A: Hospitals are requested to complete numerous surveys on a variety of topics every year from a variety of sources (local, state, federal agencies and private organizations). As far as we know, hospitals generally complete these surveys without any problem.

On emergency preparedness specifically, hospitals routinely provide information to multiple local, state and federal agencies including OSHPD, CDPH, EMSA, LEMSA (local EMS agencies), etc. Hospitals understand the important role they play in the broader public safety and disaster preparedness community. Hospitals are willing partners and active participants in the effort to ensure that local communities are well-prepared for any disasters.

Hospitals throughout California participate in the federal Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) that is administered by the California Department of Public Health. Under this program, hospitals are required to report various information and data on a routine basis.

The 2011 survey you reference was an anomaly in that it was developed, distributed and collected outside the parameters of the existing HPP. Neither CHA nor the Regional Hospital Associations were informed of or involved in the initial survey attempt. Although CHA was asked to review/refine the survey questions on a second attempt, we still had no involvement in the actual distribution or collection of the survey data.

Q: Did CHA … advise its members to consult its attorneys before completing the survey?

A: We have no specific knowledge of hospitals being told to consult legal counsel before answering this particular survey. It is not uncommon, however, for hospitals to consult with their risk managers and/or legal counsel before providing any outside organization with information of any type. That is just prudent operations management.

Q: What can the parties involved do differently to assure that another survey -- such as one including Bay Area and Cascadia (North Coast) area facilities along with SoCal - will be more effective? What can hospitals do differently? CHA? Local, state and federal authorities?

A: Emergency preparedness is a top priority among all California hospitals. Hospitals routinely work in collaboration with local, state and federal officials to ensure that hospitals are ready to respond to any and all disasters. The information sought in the 2011 survey is actually needed statewide, not just in a single region. To that end, CHA will be working with state and federal officials in early 2013 to conduct a meaningful statewide survey aimed at gathering data that will be useful to all.

Source: Emailed note from Jan Emerson-Shea, spokeswoman, California Hospital Association, Dec. 18, 2012

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Deborah Schoch

Senior writer Deborah Schoch reports on hospitals and health care delivery, nursing homes, environmental health and food. Her most recent articles have examined patient safety andhospital infections. She was a founding writer with the Center’s pilot project. Schoch spent 18 years as a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, covering public health and the environment. She was a member of the Times newsroom teams that won Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news in 1992 and 1994. Schoch graduated from Cornell University and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1999-2000, studying science, law and policy. Her work at the Center has won several honors, including first place in the 2010 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, from the Association of Health Care Journalists. She sits on the AHCJ board’s Right-to-Know Committee, which works to improve access to public health records.

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