State governments and hospital facilities are often unprepared to handle a complex medical crisis, despite a moral and ethical obligation to be prepared for disaster. The 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has drawn attention to the lack of state guidance on how hospitals should provide care in a crisis. When the resources available are insufficient to treat the current patient load, crisis standards of care (CSC) are implemented to provide care to the population in an ethical manner, while maintaining an ability to handle the surge. This Editorial aims to raise awareness concerning a lack of preparedness that calls for immediate correction at the state and local level.
Analysis of state guidelines for implementation of CSC demonstrates a lack of preparedness, as only five states in the US have appropriately completed necessary plans, despite a clear understanding of the danger. States have a legal responsibility to regulate the medical care within their borders. Failure of hospital facilities to properly prepare for disasters is not a new issue; Hurricane Katrina (2005) demonstrated a lack of planning and coordination. Improving disaster health care readiness in the United States requires states to create new policy and legislative directives for the health care facilities within their respective jurisdictions. Hospitals should have clear directives to prepare for disasters as part of a “duty to care” and to ensure that the necessary planning and supplies are available to their employees.