Budget Woes Affecting Hawaii’s Emergency Preparedness

December 21, 2010, 2:51 PM HST
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A recent report from Trust for America’s Health shows that Hawaii is not as prepared for a statewide emergency as it once was. The state’s score dropped in key indicators of public health preparedness, leaving it in the bottom half of the country for 2010. Hawaii state officials cite budget cuts for their inability to meet some of the requirements, and point out that other states are facing similar dilemmas trying to provide more services with less income to work with.

Key Indicators

The report is based on a state’s ability to meet 10 key indicators in emergency preparedness, which includes:

  • Funding for public health programs
  • Health information technology
  • Electronic syndrome surveillance
  • Incident response capacity
  • Emergency operations center
  • After action reports and improvement plans
  • Community resilience for child care facilities
  • Foodborne disease detection and reporting
  • Sufficient staffing in laboratory workforce for infectious disease outbreak
  • Public health laboratories

Hawaii scored seven out of 10 on this current list of indicators. They did not make the benchmarks for sufficient laboratory staffing, foodborne disease detection and reporting, or emergency operations center. However, officials from the state Department of Health stated that Hawaii’s emergency operations center has been operations, both during an exercise involving a strategic national stockpile and an annual hurricane drill. The agency does not know why this benchmark was not approved on this current evaluation.

Budget Cuts and Other Reasons Cited

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State officials also said that a necessary reduction in workforce due to state budget cuts attributed to other benchmarks getting missed. Officials also believe that some of the data provided by the report is misleading for Hawaii. Toby Clairmont, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii’s director of emergency services, told the Insurance Journal that unlike other states, Hawaii shares the responsibility for emergency preparedness with government, health care providers and other entities.

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Only three states received a perfect score on this report; Arkansas, North Dakota and Washington. Eleven states earned nine out of ten, and 18 earned an eight out of 10. Last year, Hawaii also earned an eight out of 10 on the same report, but dropped a point this year.

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