Tight budget constraints experienced by U.S. hospitals over the last two decades have made maintaining substantial unused clinical capacity a fiscal impossibility. As a result, studies have found that surge capacity is extremely limited in most communities. The Bethesda Hospitals' Emergency Preparedness Partnership has developed a cogent strategy to identify and staff up to 500 surge beds for the community surrounding Bethesda, Maryland and, if necessary, the National Capital Region. Strategies include: canceling elective surgeries, discharging patients who can be discharged, and transferring stable patients who still require hospitalization from the National Naval Medical Center and Suburban Hospital to the NIH Clinical Center.
Transportation of patients, staff, equipment and supplies from one partner facility to another was identified as a potential barrier in the earliest days of the partnership. On September 11, 2001 the two major thoroughfares servicing the institutions were gridlocked. Moving patients from one campus during a similar event poses a major challenge. To address this barrier, the Partnership has conducted a feasibility study to identify alternate transportation solutions during an disaster or emergency. This process has been closely coordinated among the Partners as well as with all appropriate local, state and federal transportation entities.
A rapid response shelter has also been designed for quick mobile surge capacity expansion.