BOSTON—Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) was recently awarded one of two $3 million federal grants by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to pilot a Regional Disaster Health Response System (RDHRS). The program, serving all of Massachusetts, will bring together local, state and regional officials and experts to shape health care planning, response and recovery in the event of a disaster.

“We are honored to be able to work with so many health care, public health, emergency management, and other essential partners across the commonwealth to establish a model disaster health response partnership that builds on our long history of effective collaboration to plan for and respond to these critical events,” says Paul Biddinger, MD, chief of the Division of Emergency Preparedness, director of the MGH Center for Disaster Medicine and principal investigator for the grant.  “This award represents an incredible opportunity to further advance our preparedness for 21st century threats and help serve Massachusetts, our region and our nation.” 

The program’s goals include building a network of technical advisors from participating health care institutions to coordinate patient and resource movement during disasters, establishing a 24/7/365 center with disaster medical expertise to support incident response and situational awareness, and developing rapidly deployable general and specialty medical response teams that can support local, state and regional efforts during these events.

“Be they natural or man-made, disasters can occur with little to no warning and can have a devastating impact on a large group of people in a short amount of time,” says Biddinger. “We hope that by establishing a system and a model that include the right personnel with best information and resources available, we can minimize or reduce harm to those affected.”

MGH, along with Nebraska Medicine, was chosen from a group of 19 institutions across the nation that were considered for these awards. To qualify, pilot programs were required to build regional partnerships, develop plans and policies of excellence, improve local and regional patient capacity in the event of a disaster, improve situational awareness and develop metrics to test the system’s readiness.

Founded in 1811, the Massachusetts General Hospital  is the oldest and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The 1,011-bed medical center each year admits more than 50,000 inpatients, handles more than 1.5 million visits to its extensive outpatient programs at the main campus and four health centers, and records more than 109,000 emergency visits. The surgical staff perform more than 42,000 operations annually, and the MGH Vincent Obstetrics Service delivers more than 3,900 babies a year. The largest nongovernment employer in the city of Boston, the MGH has more than 25,600 employees, including more than 5,000 registered nurses.  MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $900 million. MGH and Brigham and Women's Hospital are founding members of Partners HealthCare System, a Boston-based integrated health care delivery system.