North Carolina hospitals have a distinct role in preparedness--always standing ready to serve everyone in their communities and responding promptly when disaster strikes. Unlike taxpayer-funded emergency services, hospitals must provide critical care and services to their communities in times of disaster without the assurance of payment. Just as businesses and individuals must "save for a rainy day," hospitals must budget for the additional staff, supplies and equipment needed in emergency situations.
Often referred to as the "standby" role, hospitals fulfill the following important services to their communities and to the nation's health and public safety infrastructure:
24/7 Access to Care: providing health care services, including specialized resources, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year;
Safety Net Provider: hospitals care for all patients who seek emergency care, regardless of ability to pay; and
Disaster Readiness and Response: Ensuring that staff and facilities are prepared to care for victims of large-scale accidents, natural disasters, epidemics and terrorist alerts.
North Carolina's hospitals work closely with state health officials in responding to public health threats and disasters. In 2005, the North Carolina Hospital Emergency Surveillance System (NCHESS) was developed through a unique public-private partnership between NCHA and the NC Division of Public Health. The system electronically monitors hospital emergency departments in near-real time for early detection of disease outbreaks and bioterrorist attacks. NC General Statute 130A-480 requires any hospital with an emergency department to submit patient data to the state at least once every 24 hours.