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U.S. Hospitals Still Not Ready for Dirty Bombs

A new study published Oct. 13 in the American Medical Association's Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal says emergency department physicians and nurses are very concerned about U.S. hospitals' readiness to deal with a radioactive dirty bomb or another terrorist attack involving radioactive materials. Researchers conducted the CDC-funded study by holding10 focus groups with emergency department physicians and nurses; they "consistently expressed the view that medical professionals, emergency departments, and hospital facilities are not sufficiently prepared to respond effectively to a radiological attack," AMA reports.

"Hospital emergency departments will play a crucial role in the response to any terrorist attack involving radioactive materials," said the study's lead author, Steven M. Becker, Ph.D., associate professor of Public Health and vice chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that the actions of hospitals will be central to the success or failure of efforts to manage a radiological terrorism attack and its health consequences."

"The study has clear implications for medical preparedness and response," said Becker. "There is a need for increased information and training on managing radiological events, protecting staff, and treating affected patients. Likewise, there is a need for increased access to informational resources, such as specialized professional hotlines, pocket guides, posters, and toolkits. In addition, physicians' and nurses' concerns for loved ones need to be better taken into account in preparedness planning to prevent a potential shortage of health care providers."

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