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Academic Medicine Gears Up for Ebola

November 7, 2014—AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., sent a Nov. 5 letter  to White House Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain, with signatures from more than 120 medical schools and teaching hospitals in 35 states and the District of Columbia, offering to work with state and federal officials to prepare for and respond to Ebola cases.

The letter, which also expresses support for “a robust, sustained federal investment” in these efforts, was delivered shortly after the White House submitted to Congress its request for $6.18 billion in emergency supplemental funding to contain the epidemic, strengthen domestic preparedness, and accelerate development of vaccines and treatments. Designating the supplemental as “emergency” funding avoids the need to find offsets within existing spending bills, because emergency spending is exempt from the discretionary budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act [see related story].

In the letter, Dr. Kirch described how AAMC-member institutions “already are on the forefront of caring for Ebola patients in the United States and Africa” and are advancing research in the field. Describing how academic medicine’s intersecting missions are an asset to response efforts, the letter states, “For example, by staffing and maintaining costly biocontainment units, routinely training and drilling employees, and engaging in vaccine and related infectious disease research, Emory University and [University of Nebraska Medical Center] were prepared to step up immediately and play an essential role in the nation’s response.”

The letter also highlights the substantial costs associated both with general hospital preparedness efforts, as well as the unique expenses hospitals may incur as a result of treating Ebola patients. “Ongoing readiness training alone costs hundreds of thousands of dollars annually,” the letter describes, “and one institution estimates just the direct costs of increased staffing can exceed $25,000 per patient per day.”

Other potential expenses include transportation of Ebola patients to designated treatment centers, biohazard disposal, and potential foregone revenue because of fear within the community and/or the shift of resources away from other services, among other costs. The letter calls for “a steady, reliable, and long-term financial commitment to ensure continued support for readiness activities even as threats appear to diminish.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to convene Nov. 12 for a hearing to consider the supplemental, featuring testimony by HHS Secretary Syliva Mathews Burwell and other federal witnesses.

In a Nov. 5 statement, Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) indicated that she would evaluate the funding request “using three key principles;” namely, the extent to which it targets resources to address the epidemic in West Africa, to protect the U.S. at “ports of entry,” and to support scientific advances to fight Ebola. She stated, “Our state and local health departments, our disease detectives at the CDC, scientists at the National Institutes of Health and nurses, doctors and other health care workers are leaning into this fight. We must support them and invest in their work.”


Tannaz Rasouli
Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
Telephone: 202-828-0525


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