Report questions Nevada readiness

RENO — Nevada has room for improvement in preparing for public health emergencies, such as disease outbreaks, natural disasters and bioterrorism, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report gave Nevada six out of 10 possible points for emergency preparedness, the same score it has received since 2005 and one point better than in 2004 and 2003.

Nevada was among eight states that scored six points out of 10 indicators. Only six states were ranked worse: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska and Montana. Five states scored perfect 10s: Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Although the report provides a snapshot of the state’s readiness, Nevada health officials said, they disagreed with some findings and noted that indicators on which programs are judged change yearly.

“That’s really been our struggle over time,” said Luana Ritch, chief of health statistics, planning and emergency response for the Nevada Division of Health. “We don’t know what their indicators are going to be for next year.”

Prepared by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the report also cited other weaknesses, including failure to have an intrastate courier system for 24-hour lab analysis; not having an Internet-based disease surveillance system compatible with the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and not having a state medical reserve corps coordinator.

The state reports to the CDC electronically. Ritch also took exception to the report finding that Nevada lacks a medical reserve corps coordinator.

“We do have a hospital and health care preparedness program manager,” she said. That person coordinates responses with local health districts, the three largest of which have medical reserve corps.

A spokeswoman for the trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit health group, noted Nevada’s progress.

“Nevada now has an adequate plan for distributing emergency vaccines, antidotes and medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, which they did not achieve in past years,” said trust spokeswoman Laura Segal.

Segal also said Nevada has a plan to deal with a flu pandemic.

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