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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
August 27, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Thomas Slater
609-984-7160
Gretchen Michael
609-984-7160


 
New Jersey A Leader in Health Preparedness


 

Against a backdrop of emergency vehicles and decontamination trailers that could be deployed in the event of a mass casualty incident, Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. described how New Jersey has strengthened its emergency response and health care infrastructure since the terror alert was changed to orange earlier this month.

 

Commissioner Lacy detailed New Jersey’s extensive planning and staging efforts at a press conference today at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) Newark campus. The heightened state of readiness is also in preparation for the Republican National Convention, August 30- September 2, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

 

The Commissioner was joined by Mr. John Petillo, interim president of UMDNJ; and Nancy Hamstra, Director, Emergency Medical Services, UMDNJ-University Hospital; William Gluckman, M.D., Emergency Medicine Physician, UMDNJ-University Hospital; and Marsha McGowan, Health Officer/Director, Personal Health Services, Newark Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Health threats will occur. We must be prepared,” said Commissioner Lacy. “New Jersey has been challenged by emerging infectious diseases like West Nile Virus and SARS, and was the epicenter of anthrax bioterrorism. Because of our location, population density, and potential terrorist targets, our state must continue to be at the forefront of preparedness nationally. We must be ready to respond to all health hazards including those of natural or intentional origin.”

 

On display at UMDNJ was a variety of Essex County’s preparedness equipment including HazMat vehicles, a decontamination trailer and an explosive ordinance vehicle (EOD).

 

In its preparedness efforts, DHSS has strengthened New Jersey’s public health and health care systems so that hospitals and county and local health agencies are better prepared to respond to health emergencies. This has resulted in enhanced communication capability, increased disease surveillance, and an improved ability to protect and educate New Jersey residents.

 

During the last two years, the Department has provided funding to hospitals and county and local public health agencies to buy personal protective equipment, decontamination units and vehicles; to stockpile medications, vaccines, antidotes, and safety equipment; and to train personnel and conduct exercises to test emergency plans.

 

Over the course of the last month, Commissioner Lacy has held weekly conference calls with all New Jersey hospitals, local and county public health agencies, federally qualified health centers and blood banks.Hospitals and health care facilities have been asked to review their in-house emergency response plans, update all emergency contact phone numbers and e-mails, test all communications systems and make sure that decontamination units are ready to be deployed and activated, if necessary.

 

Since August 16, hospitals and public health agencies have been asked to be on the lookout for any unusual illnesses, including fever and rash or fever and respiratory symptoms, and to identify individuals who have been at the Republican National Convention or have been in contact with anyone who is associated with the convention.

 

Commissioner Lacy requested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dispatch Chempack, nerve agent antidote, to New Jersey. The Chempack supplies have been received and have been strategically deployed around the state over the past week. These antidotes supplement New Jersey’s strategic state stockpile of medications that can be used to treat individuals exposed to biological or chemical agents.

 

 “We are asking our health care partners to prepare, train and exercise their emergency plans and communications systems, we are reminding New Jersey families to do the same,” said Commissioner Lacy. “Every family member should know where to go, where to access information, what emergency supplies to have, what to do, and whom to call in the event of an emergency.”

 

For more information, visit the DHSS website at www.state.nj.us/health.

 

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