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Surge capacity is defined as a healthcare system's ability to rapidly expand beyond normal services to meet the increased demand for appropriate space, qualified personnel, medical care, and public health in the event of bioterrorism, disaster, or other large-scale, public health emergencies. There are many individuals and agencies, including policy makers, planners, administrators, and staff at the federal, state, and local level, involved in the process of planning for and executing policy in respect to a surge in the medical requirements of a population. They are responsible to ensure there is sufficient surge capacity within their own jurisdiction.
The [US] federal government has required New York State to create a system of hospital bed surge capacity that provides for 500 adult and pediatric patients per 1 million population, which has been estimated to be an increase of 15–20% in bed availability. In response, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOH) has requested that area hospitals take an inventory of available beds and set a goal to provide for a 20% surge capacity to be available during a mass-casualty event or other conditions calling for increased inpatient bed availability.
In 2003, under the auspices of the NYC DOH, the New York Institute of All Hazard Preparedness (NYIHP) was formed from four unaffiliated, healthcare facilities in Central Brooklyn to address this and other goals.
The NYIHP hospitals have developed a surge capacity plan to provide necessary space and utilities. As these plans have been applied, a bed surge capacity of approximately 25% was identified and created for Central Brooklyn to provide for the increased demand on the medical care system that may accompany a disaster. Through the process of developing an integrated plan that would engage a public health incident, the facilities of NYIHP demonstrate that a model of cooperation may be applied to an inherently fractioned medical system.
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