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Commentary |

Enhancing Hospital Surge Capacity for Mass Casualty Events

Kobi Peleg, PhD, MPH; Arthur L. Kellermann, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2009;302(5):565-567. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1119.
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Two days after the 2008 presidential election, the Government Accountability Office identified 13 “urgent issues” President-elect Obama and the 111th Congress should address during the transition period and first year of the new administration. One of the issues, preparing for large-scale health emergencies, is particularly relevant to the US health care system. The Government Accountability Office posted on its Web site the following statement:

Prior to September 11, 2001, hospital surge capacity received little attention. Since then, substantial resources have been devoted to the problem. Between 2002 and 2008, the federal government spent more than $8 billion on hospital and public health preparedness.2 The most attention has been focused on preparing for bioterrorist attacks and pandemic influenza, events expected to generate a progressive surge of patients over days to weeks.2,3 In contrast, preparedness for sudden mass casualty events, such as large-scale terrorist bombings, has received little attention.4,5 Because casualties of sudden mass casualty events often have complex injuries, they place unique demands on hospitals.5

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