HHS Invests in Enhancing Domestic Preparedness Efforts for Ebola

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a new funding opportunity announcement (FOA): the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) Ebola Preparedness and Response Activities. This funding opportunity will award a total of $194,500,000 to states and other grantees for Ebola healthcare system preparedness and response and the development of a regional Ebola treatment strategy.

This funding, in addition to the Ebola emergency funds that will soon be awarded through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program, provides a total investment of $339,500,000 to enhance state, local and healthcare system preparedness for Ebola through the emergency appropriations passed with bipartisan support in Congress in December 2014. These funds build on gains that have been made in healthcare and public health preparedness efforts over the past decade through the HPP and PHEP cooperative agreements with states.

“I’d like to thank cities, states, and hospitals across the country and the public health community for stepping up and taking action,” says HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response Dr. Nicole Lurie. “We are building on the work we’ve already done and further investing in domestic preparedness to protect the public’s health from Ebola, as well as boosting preparedness for many other types of health threats.”

Since last fall, the United States has strengthened domestic preparedness and response efforts. State and local public health officials, with technical assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ASPR, collaborated with hospital officials across the U.S. to increase domestic capacity to care for patients with Ebola.

Important lessons were also learned during the response effort. Safety of healthcare workers must be foremost in healthcare system preparedness and response activities; the care of Ebola patients is clinically complex and demanding; and early case recognition is critical for preventing spread and improving outcomes.  Assuring that Ebola patients are safely and well cared for in the U.S. healthcare system and that frontline providers are trained to recognize and isolate a person with suspected Ebola are the cornerstones of the Hospital Preparedness Program Ebola funding announcement.

Through the Hospital Preparedness Program Ebola funding announcement, HHS seeks to build upon the tiered approach outlined in HHS’ Interim Guidance for U.S. Hospital Preparedness for Patients under Investigation or with Confirmed Ebola Virus Disease: A Framework for a Tiered Approach, to establish a nationwide, regional treatment network for Ebola and other infectious diseases. This approach balances geographic need, differences in institutional capabilities, and accounts for the potential risk of needing to care for an Ebola patient. It builds on Congress’ call for a regional strategy and also recognizes the tremendous work done by cities, states and hospitals. This network will consist of:

1. Up to 10 regional Ebola and other special pathogen treatment centers, including one hospital in each of the ten HHS regions from among those that have already been designated by their state health officials to serve as Ebola Treatment Centers and have been assessed by CDC-led Rapid Ebola Preparedness (REP) teams.  These facilities will have enhanced capabilities to receive a confirmed Ebola patient.

2. State or jurisdiction Ebola Treatment Centers that can safely care for patients with Ebola as needed.

3. Assessment hospitals that can safely receive and isolate a person under investigation for Ebola and care for the person until an Ebola diagnosis can be confirmed or ruled out and until discharge or transfer are completed.

4. Frontline healthcare facilities that can rapidly identify and triage patients with relevant exposure history and signs or symptoms compatible with Ebola and coordinate patient transfer to an Ebola assessment hospital.

The Hospital Preparedness Program Ebola funding opportunity will provide funding to all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and select metropolitan jurisdictions to support healthcare facilities that are capable of serving as regional Ebola and other special pathogen treatment centers, Ebola Treatment Centers and assessment hospitals for their states or jurisdictions.

The funding will also support healthcare coalitions to prepare frontline hospitals, emergency medical services agencies, and the overall healthcare system. As with past preparedness grants, states and other awardees have appropriate flexibility in how funding is distributed to community-level healthcare coalitions and local jurisdictions.    

Additionally, to date, four non-federal hospitals have cared for one or more patients with Ebola. Congress provided HHS with the authority to reimburse hospitals using Ebola emergency funding for the care of Ebola patients not covered by health insurance and workers compensation programs, HHS is developing the mechanism for that process.

Source: HHS

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