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Broad health preparedness bill advances in Senate

first_imgJul 19, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A US Senate committee today approved a bill packed with a wide variety of provisions designed to improve the nation’s ability to handle public health emergencies, including pandemic influenza.The bipartisan “Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act” was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, according to Laura Caudell, a spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the bill’s author.”We passed it unanimously this morning out of committee, and now it’ll be put on the legislative calendar in the Senate,” Caudell told CIDRAP News.Among other things, the bill names the secretary of health and human services as the government’s leader for health emergencies, requires states to meet preparedness standards and to share some of the cost of preparedness, seeks to coordinate and strengthen the nation’s system of medical volunteers, and calls for tracking of influenza vaccine supplies so that doses reach high-risk groups.The measure reauthorizes the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which was passed following the terrorist attacks of 2001. That law is set to expire at the end of September, according to a Jul 18 news release from Burr’s office.Burr, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness, said discussions with New Orleans health officials last week about Hurricane Katrina underscored for him the need for the legislation.”Everyone I met agreed we must ensure our hospitals and health care facilities are better prepared to respond to a disaster,” he said in the news release. “This legislation is a first step toward making sure our federal, state, and local governments and public and private health care systems have more tools to better manage an emergency be it a hurricane, a terrorist attack, or a pandemic.”The bill, introduced yesterday, is cosponsored by Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. Caudell said the sponsors consulted with the Bush administration in developing the legislation and that it has the administration’s support.Enzi, chair of the Senate committee that approved the bill today, said in a news release that the measure “would integrate local, state, and federal public health infrastructures and create a clear chain of command.”Burr’s office cited five major objectives of the bill:To “put someone in charge” by designating the HHS secretary as the lead official for responding to public health emergencies. Caudell said current law doesn’t specifically assign that job to anyone.To “speed up coordinated responses to medical emergencies” by improving training, logistics, and planning for healthcare providers and by promoting the use of “mobile medical assets and alternative federal facilities” for accommodating surges of patients.To establish standards of preparedness for states. “The legislation requires individual states to meet performance standards developed by the Secretary of HHS to ensure all states have a basic level of preparedness for disasters,” the release states.To fund public health and medical preparedness. The bill authorizes $824 million for state and local preparedness and $474 million for hospital preparedness for fiscal year 2007, plus “such sums as may be necessary” for 2008 through 2011.To create a system to promote, organize, train, and support healthcare volunteers for emergency response work.Regarding funding, the legislation requires states to match federal preparedness grants at the 5% level starting in 2009. The states’ share would increase to 10% and then 20% in the two following years.To improve state accountability, the bill calls on HHS within 6 months to develop “measurable evidence-based benchmarks and objective standards that measure levels of preparedness.” In addition, HHS is directed to provide the states with criteria for an effective plan for responding to pandemic influenza.States that fail to meet standards or submit a pandemic response plan would lose 10% of their annual grant the first year. With continuing failures, the penalty would rise to 15%, 20%, and 25% in the second, third, and fourth years.Concerning flu vaccine supplies, the legislation directs HHS “to track and facilitate the distribution” of vaccines so that supplies can go to high-priority groups. It does not suggest how this should be done. The information gathered by HHS for this purpose must remain confidential.The legislation also calls for some changes in lines of responsibility for emergency response. In particular, it transfers the National Disaster Medical System from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) back to HHS, where it was before the DHS was established in 2002.In addition, the bill moves the management of the Strategic National Stockpile of drugs and medical supplies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the office of the HHS assistant secretary for public health emergency preparedness, according to Caudell. The name of the latter position would change to “assistant secretary for preparedness and response” under the bill.Concerning medical volunteers, the legislation “codifies” the existing system of local Medical Reserve Corps teams and puts them under a director appointed by the HHS secretary. The bill sets standards for the composition of the corps and the training and certification of its members.Also under the bill, HHS would tie existing state volunteer verification systems into a nationwide network of systems that could quickly verify volunteers’ credentials in an emergency.Sen. Enzi’s news release cited two other provisions of the bill as important:A clause promoting “public health situational awareness with a nationwide, near real-time network, built on existing surveillance systems, to detect and contain public health threats”A provision for grants to people who agree to serve in a state or local public health department in an underserved area.See also: Jul 19 news release from Sen. Richard BurrJul 18 news release from Sen. BurrNovember 2002 CIDRAP News article on establishment of the DHShttp://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/bioprep/news/homelnd.htmlCDC information on the Strategic National Stockpilehttps://www.cdc.gov/phpr/stockpile/index.htmlast_img read more

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Jakarta’s poor at risk as city drags feet on COVID-19 social assistance

first_imgBut with an additional 2.6 million recipients added to the tally, Anies said the administration would require approximately 10 days to complete their credentials – another massive undertaking.“Not all of them have a Jakarta identity card. Some are not even registered as beneficiaries of the social assistance program,” he said, adding that the administration would use data it had been collecting through the One Jakarta program, which employs the Family Welfare Movement (PKK) to collect household data.Meanwhile, the Social Affairs Ministry’s director general for social empowerment, Pepen Nazarudin, said the ministry was still waiting on the details of the beneficiaries.“The Jakarta administration is to inform us about the data before we will review it. We’ll convey the data to the President as soon as possible,” Pepen told The Jakarta Post.The disbursement mechanism remains unclear but Pepen insisted it would abide by the physical distancing rules mandated by the government, hopeful of avoiding the rush and the long lines that often come with the distribution of staple food packages.Flora Aninditya, a researcher at the University of Indonesia Economics and Business School’s Demographics Institute, emphasized that while speeding up the collection of data was important, the safety of the officers should be of utmost importance during an outbreak.“There should be a protocol to ensure the safety of data collectors who go out into the field, while operational incentives like covered transportation costs or phone credits should also be provided,” she told the Post on Friday.Read also: Indonesia’s strategy to combat COVID-19: What we know so farSeparately, Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) chairwoman Asfinawati deplored the Jakarta government’s “late” decision to set up a social safety net one month after the first COVID-19 infection was confirmed in the capital.She claimed that many people had lost income and could potentially fall deeper into poverty due to the government’s failure to identify risks and prepare mitigation strategies before measures to curb the spread of the virus were put in place.“The risks should have been identified well in advance,” she said.Jakarta RT/RW Forum chairman Muhammad Irsyad said he was worried that low-income groups would no longer heed the government’s call to stay indoors as uncertainty over their basic needs are thrown into doubt.“Though I’ve seen residents obey the call [for physical distancing] for the past two weeks, they will eventually want to go out to find ways [to make money],” he said. “But residents may feel more at ease if they know it [social assistance] is available.”The severity of the COVID-19 outbreak in the capital has triggered an outpouring of solidarity from individuals, community organizations, companies and government agencies that have gathered donations for the poor and provided protective gear for medical workers on the frontline.Meanwhile, communities in Jakarta’s slums have reportedly begun producing their own antiseptic liquid for local use.“These are truly very good initiatives to have as a nation, but they could also be seen as a corrective measure to make up for the failure of the state,” Asfinawati said.Wahyudi Djafar, deputy director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), said that collective efforts to handle the outbreak should always be led by the government.“The government should have been able to produce a map for people to track, for instance, where there is a shortage of protective equipment, so donations and other resources can be equally distributed,” he said.Jakarta, currently the country’s epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, had reported 958 confirmed cases and 96 deaths as of Friday afternoon.Topics : Fast forward to Thursday, at a teleconference meeting with Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, Anies announced that the number of beneficiaries had jumped to 3.7 million people due to a greater share of the population, comprising poor and vulnerable groups, dropping deeper into poverty.“They [people in the vulnerable bracket] still earn a living, but once the economy contracts, they will have lost all of their income,” he said, pointing to street vendors and ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers as prime examples of this group.Read also: 70 million informal workers most vulnerable during pandemicThe governor has revealed that beneficiaries would be receiving Rp 1 million (US$60.45) in subsidies per household per month for April and May. The Social Affairs Ministry, which is set to allocate Rp. 4.57 trillion to the social assistance program, would be footing a larger chunk of each subsidy of Rp 880,000, while the remainder will be taken out of the city’s budget. The Jakarta administration’s sluggish delivery of crucial social assistance funds in response to the COVID-19 outbreak is putting the city’s underprivileged citizens at a higher risk of slipping into destitution the longer the crisis stretches on.On March 20, five days after the city started closing down schools and tourist destinations to curb the spread of the disease, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said that the administration would be disbursing social assistance to 1.1 million registered beneficiaries.At the time, Jakarta officials were still formulating the amount and method of disbursement.last_img read more