July 20,2006

Chairman Grassley Comments on GAO Report on Disaster Preparedness for Nursing Home Residents


TO: Reporters and Editors
FR: Jill Kozeny, for Chairman Grassley, 202/224-1308
RE: GAO Report on Disaster Preparedness, Nursing Home Residents
DA: Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sen. Chuck Grassley commented on a report released today by the Government
Accountability Office. The report is titled: Disaster Preparedness – Limitations in Federal
Evacuation Assistance for Health Facilities Should be Addressed. In the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina, the Government Accountability Office examined the challenges faced by hospital and
nursing homes related to hurricanes, limitations of the National Disaster Medical System
(NDMS), and federal requirements for hospital and nursing home disaster planning and

The Government Accountability Office found, among other things, that the National
Disaster Medical System (NDMS), identified in the National Response Plan to assist state and
local governments with evacuations, is not configured to evacuate persons not in need of hospital
care, such as nursing home residents. The evacuation of nursing home residents is not addressed
elsewhere in the National Response Plan. Another limitation of the NDMS is that it is designed
to evacuate persons from a designated mobilization center, such as an airport, which leaves
nursing homes and hospitals to make their own arrangements for moving residents and patients
from the hospital or nursing home to the NDMS mobilization center. GAO recommended that
Department of Homeland Security, NDMS, and others clearly delineate how they will meet the
needs of nursing home residents during evacuations and how the federal government will assist
state and local governments with transporting residents and patients from nursing homes and
hospitals to NDMS mobilization centers.

Statement of Sen. Grassley:

“Government officials at all levels need to heed the lessons and experiences of Gulf Coast
residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Finance Committee is charged with
overseeing the Medicare and Medicaid programs, so I’m especially concerned about our ability to
assist frail and vulnerable nursing home residents and hospital patients. This report outlines gaps
in our disaster response system which may have contributed to some of the unconscionable
situations during Katrina in which nursing home residents and hospital patients were not
evacuated. These residents and patients relied on others for their care, safety and security. That
is why, at all levels, local, state, and federal, we must be prepared to respond effectively in the
aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster. As with the Katrina response, we can’t let
confusion and gaps in responsibility get in the way of the effectiveness of the response. The
federal government needs to be prepared to respond. I urge the Department of Homeland
Security and other federal agencies that are involved to plug the gaps in our evacuation system to
ensure that some of the most frail and vulnerable among us are not left behind.”