SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the launch of a $450,000 Web-based system that provides the state with up-to-the-minute information from more than 200 hospitals in Illinois on the availability of beds and other critical health care services necessary to guide the response to an act of terrorism or other public health emergency.
“We now have the ability to monitor the status of hospital facilities statewide to ensure adequate resources are quickly made available for emergency patient care in the event of a crisis,” the Governor said. “This is another step the state has taken to respond to the threat of terrorism, but it also improves our ability to deal with other emergency situations that may arise.”
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) activated its Medical Disaster Plan and initiated a census of all the hospital beds in the state due to the possibility of an attack in Illinois. While the information was gathered from hospitals within a few hours through a fax reporting setup, the new system allows for the data to be obtained in a matter of minutes through a secure Web site.
“IDPH will be able to access the number of hospital beds and emergency medical resources available statewide through data supplied electronically by the hospitals,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “The information will be essential in managing an appropriate and effective response to a natural or bioterrorism event that causes mass casualties.”
Dr. Whitaker said while the electronic system will be used in the event of a disaster, a more regular use will be for hospitals to report to IDPH when they have reached capacity and can no longer accept ambulance patients. This situation is known as “bypass” and occurs frequently during severe illness outbreaks, such as the flu or salmonella, when patients flock to emergency departments for treatment and overload hospital admissions.
A bypass can be requested if a hospital has no critical care or cardiac monitored beds available or no operating rooms are available.
When a bypass is declared by a hospital, emergency medical personnel are alerted and ambulance patients are routed to other nearby hospitals. In the past, the bypass notice has been made to IDPH through a phone call and fax.
With the new system, once a hospital determines it can no longer accept ambulance patients, hospital staff will log in to an Internet site and answer a series of questions. After these questions are answered, the system will instantly inform all hospitals and IDPH of the hospital’s bypass status.
“The notification feature provides the state with the ability to quickly establish contact with hospitals to determine actions being taken to reopen their facilities for emergency patients,” Dr. Whitaker said. “When a bypass has been declared, it is imperative that the hospital moves to get off bypass so as other hospitals don’t become overwhelmed.”
Funding for the system comes from a bioterrorism grant awarded to the state by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.