- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Representatives of area hospitals will meet today and tomorrow to discuss how they can improve communication during mass-casualty events.

Organizers say hospitals rarely have privileged access to information during a large-scale emergency and often must rely on the press for updates. Therefore, hospital workers often have difficulty gauging the extent of a crisis and preparing themselves for a surge of patients.

Washington Hospital Center’s ER One Institute is sponsoring the fourth annual conference, to be held at the Leavy Conference Center at Georgetown University.

According to a report by Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit organization, improved communication is one of the major concerns regarding U.S. hospitals involved in emergency preparedness.

Emergency situations such as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 highlighted the need for improvement in disaster response, officials said.

Beverly A. Pritchett, senior deputy director of the D.C. Department of Health, Emergency Health and Medical Services Administration, said the tragic events have resulted in more community support.

The District “now has an emergency health-reserve corps in which anyone can volunteer to help their community,” she said.

At the conference, Mrs. Pritchett will talk about how a community can develop disaster-prevention practices.

Information from health officials would help prevent the spread of a pandemic by “connecting with the community to educate them about proper hygiene procedures so that they become a habit now,” she said.

The conference also will include discussions on relief efforts and collaboration in combat and foreign disaster zones.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. B. Tilman Jolly, the Department of Homeland Security’s associate medical officer.

Other speakers will include Dr. James Aiken, the medical director for Emergency Preparedness at the Medical Center of Louisiana, and Dr. Daniel Laor, the director of the Disaster and Emergency Division of the Israeli Ministry of Health in Jerusalem.

“This conference brings not only Homeland Security, but also representatives from the District, New Orleans, New York and many others, especially from metropolitan areas with high potential terrorist activity,” said LeRoy Tillman a Washington Hospital Center spokesman.

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