AUSTIN – The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, under the direction of Dr. Brett P. Giroir, today held its first public hearing at the State Capitol. The hearing focused on preparedness for initial identification and isolation of patients – one of seven areas of concentration for the Task Force – and included invited testimony from witnesses representing professions and institutions involved in disease identification and response.
“Identification is indeed the first step in controlling Ebola or any infectious disease,” said Giroir, CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Task Force director. “We are committed to gathering the information needed to develop a plan that insures Texas is fully prepared for future infectious disease threats of all kinds.”
Giroir closed the hearing with an overview of seven themes emerging from today’s testimony:
- Responding to infectious disease outbreaks is the new norm, making preparedness for current and future threats a necessity.
- Public health is a multi-disciplinary effort that is not owned by any one agency, profession, or region.
- There is a need for improved, standardized protocols coupled with repeated simulations, training and drills. No matter the protocols, everyone must still operate with the mindset that each situation is a learning environment where protocols can change based on latest information.
- The need exists for improved communications at all levels, including technical, process oriented, and timeliness and accuracy of information to the media and public.
- A review of the roles and responsibilities of the state’s lead public health physician in relation to local emergency response authorities. Public health emergencies have unique characteristics that differentiate them from natural disasters.
- Texas must examine opportunities for more self-sufficiency and resiliency in areas ranging from local public health staffing to regional stockpiling of key supplies, such as personal protective equipment.
- Resources and funding will remain an issue, particularly given cuts in the Federal Hospital Preparedness Program, but the immediate focus also needs to be on flexibility to direct dollars where they are needed and the prudent, risk-based application of support that is available.
The Task Force submitted initial recommendations on October 17 and assessments from today’s hearing will guide future recommendations regarding preparedness and response to infectious diseases.
For a complete agenda from the hearing, visit http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/2014-10-23-TaskForceAgenda.pdf.