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Bill Will Improve Disaster Response through Interstate Cooperation

January 23, 2014- Hanson Quickel
HARRISBURG- When a major snowstorm or other natural disaster strikes, Pennsylvania will have a streamlined system for accepting help from neighboring states under a bill introduced by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20).

The legislation, Senate Bill 1235, will allow doctors, veterinarians and other health care workers to provide immediate emergency health care to victims of a declared disaster by creating a Volunteer Health Practitioner Registry System.

“Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the red tape that doctors, counselors, and funeral directors had to endure in order to help those in need,” Baker said. “We have learned from that tragic experience, which claimed the lives of 1,836 people, and are acting to ensure that Pennsylvanians have immediate access to health care during the most critical times.”

After Katrina hit New Orleans, many states enacted legislation similar to Baker’s, to allow health care professionals to enter states that have suffered a declared disaster and provide services without having to scale a host of legal and licensing hurdles.  During and after many major crises, licensure boards have been overwhelmed with requests or have closed temporarily because of the disaster.

Under the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act (UEVHPA), the Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) would be able to regulate the length of time and the geographic area in which volunteer emergency health practitioners can serve.  To ensure quality care, the health practitioners would have to be licensed and in good standing in their home state.

This language was developed by the Uniform Law Commission and has been adopted in 14 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The bill is endorsed by numerous health, legal and emergency response organizations, including the American Red Cross, the ASPCA, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the United Way of America. 

“A failure to plan has frequently made a big disaster even bigger,” Baker said.  “This bill is designed to prepare for the worst by paving the way for the best doctors and nurses to come in to help, and will better position Pennsylvania to receive aid should a major tragedy overwhelm our resources.”

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