Poll: Half of US physicians doubt readiness for mass emergencies

Catastrophic events often come without warning. Regardless, the public expects local health systems to be prepared to respond efficiently and effectively. However, the majority of hospitals are not equipped to handle disaster situations, according to a poll of U.S. physicians from SERMO.

The poll found only 49 percent of U.S. physician respondents believe their regional health systems are prepared to handle a mass casualty situation, and 51 percent do not feel that their health systems are prepared to deal with an emergency or care for the wounded. A total of 1,859 U.S. physicians responded to the poll.

"With hospitals financially mandated to operate at 90 to 95 percent capacity, there is no safety margin for a surprise surge in admissions," said one U.S. physician responding to the poll. "I have been told that occupancies under 85 percent are insufficient for meeting expenses, and hospital staffing has been cut to its bare bones if not to completely unsafe levels. Many hospitals here are already ready to snap, let alone handle a catastrophe."

In contrast, European physicians rated their disaster-response readiness higher than U.S. physicians, with 78 percent of Danish physicians, 61 percent of French physicians, 61 percent of Spanish physicians and 55 percent of Italian physicians responding that their regional health system is equipped to handle a mass casualty event.

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