Bioterrorism and the Naked Truth—We are Defenseless

The federal government has “goals” for researching how our health care system can prepare for bioterrorism as stated in this latest press release:

“AHRQ’s investment in bioterrorism research recognizes that community clinicians, hospitals, and health care systems have essential roles in the public health infrastructure. To inform and assist these groups in meeting the health care needs of the U.S. population in the face of bioterrorist threats, AHRQ-supported research focuses on the following:

  • Emergency preparedness of hospitals and health care systems for bioterrorism and other rare public health events.
  • Technologies and methods to improve the linkages between the personal health care system, emergency response networks, and public health agencies.
  • Training and information needed to prepare community clinicians to recognize the manifestations of bioterrorist agents and manage patients appropriately.”

Rise of bioterrorism

If we have learned anything from the attack that wiped out the twin towers on September 11, 2001, it’s that there is not one hospital in the entire country that is equipped to handle a massive disaster that would arise from any type of terrorist attack.

I remember working as a nursing supervisor in an emergency room in the North Bronx, some twenty miles north of ground zero. Every emergency room in the New York Metropolitan Region was on disaster alert.

The authorities estimated about 5,000 casualties and they knew that this number would have overwhelmed every E.R. in the Downstate area of New York as well as New Jersey’s Hudson River shoreline.

Most hospitals can’t handle more than a dozen people rushing in for emergency care simultaneously without using the cafeteria or the main lobby as triage and treatment areas. The bigger disaster on that day would have been seeing several thousand people bleeding and broken lying helpless without medical attention.

The fact is that we didn’t see many live casualties and the area hospitals were no so overwhelmed because most of the victims were dead. However, there were many discussion about how unprepared we were for anything more than a single plane crash, bus accident or train wreck.

Moreover, the anthrax scare that followed soon after was more of an eye opener. The idea of bioterrorism like an anthrax aerosol let off in Grand Central Station infecting about one million people in single day is horrific to say the least.

There were nightmarish visions of thousands of people converging on each hospital emergency department at one time demanding immediate care, which involves complicated decontamination procedures with showers and disposal of all clothing and personal items. This is an impossible scenario. People would end up rioting in a state of total anarchy.

Therefore, the little three point bullet list about emergency preparedness, communication links between hospitals and government agencies, and training of clinicians is a joke.

When we faced those anthrax scares in New York, New Jersey and Washington D.C. in 2001, there were only enough antibiotics on hand to treat about twenty-five thousand people while there was a threat of millions being infected.

With viral attacks the odds are even worse because the only chance for people to survive is quarantine and decontamination of tens of thousands of people in one small area. Additionally, the prospect of a dirty bomb leaves us with the frightening possibility of thirty to fifty thousand people dying of radiation poisoning, mostly because we wouldn’t have the infrastructure to treat them.

The bottom line is we have no defense against bioterrorism or any attack with weapons of mass destruction and the government clowns know it and their solution is to use their weapons of mass deception to keep us calm and avoid taking responsibility for real solutions.

In conclusion, we don’t need to waste money on phony research. The bottom line is that we already know what to do, but we have no health care system for large scale disasters. The best we can do is draw up plans to use stadiums and convention centers with armies of trained hazmat personnel, doctors, nurses and equipment with fully equipped tent hospitals. It all has to be done with local first responder groups with the Federal Government providing the resources. The AHRQ needs to stop wasting money on research and start spending money on solutions. They need to take the word “research” out of the name and call it the “Agency for Healthcare Quality.…