State awards hospitals for preparedness

State awards hospitals for preparedness Gov. Mike Rounds has announced that the state will award hospitals and surgery centers across the state a total of $1,387,200 to enhance their isolation and decontamination capacity.

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the state Department of Health the grant, which is part two of a multi-year effort.

"In 2003, hospitals used grant funding to look at their isolation and decontamination capabilities, to identify gaps, and to develop plans for responding to an incident," said Gov. Rounds. "These 2004 grants are a direct result of that assessment."

Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital will receive $5,000 for a base grant, $15,000 for isolation and $10,000 for decontamination.

While the grant's focus is bioterrorism, isolation capacity is important in controlling other respiratory ailments such as tuberculosis, SARS, meningitis and influenza. Isolation rooms with negative air pressure allow hospitals to isolate potentially infectious patients and to protect staff, other patients, and visitors.

Decontamination facilities provide emergency departments with the capacity to decontaminate one or more patients who may have been exposed to a biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear agent. The capacity can also be used for more routine situations that occur during an agricultural or business chemical contamination.

"Increasing isolation and decontamination capabilities at hospitals across the state is one more concrete example of how South Dakota is using federal bioterrorism dollars," said state Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth. "As a result, we're better prepared for not only a bioterrorism incident but also public health emergencies such as disease outbreaks or natural disasters."

Rounds said representatives from hospitals, surgery centers, and state health officials have been meeting for the past year to develop regional plans to respond to a bioterrorism event or large disease outbreak with mass casualties.

South Dakota will distribute the grants based on hospitals' existing resources and capacities. In addition to the individual hospital grants, each of the state's four regions will also receive funding for durable medical equipment such as portable ventilators and suction machines that can be used within the region as needed during an emergency.

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