Allocation of Scarce Resources Project
Since its inception in 2002, the Wisconsin Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program has established State Expert Panels to develop guidelines for the allocation of scare resources. This document summarizes the work of these panels and their recommendations for the implementation of these guidelines by hospitals.
A. Altered Standards of Care
The State Expert Panels prefer not to use “altered standards of care”, which is used very 1popularly in the literature to refer to how treatment may change in a mass casualty incident due to limited resources. Instead the Panels prefer the use of the term “allocation
of scare resources”.
B. Goals for all Hospitals in the State
The goals established by the State Expert Panels for this project reflect the goals established by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
; The allocation of scarce resource guidelines are applied consistently by Wisconsin
; There is consensus and solidarity among physicians and healthcare professionals on
the application of these guidelines.
; The community has been engaged in the development of these guidelines ; These guidelines adhere to ethical norms.
; The federal and state government provides legal protections for practitioners,
hospitals, implementing these guidelines.
; A „trigger” for the implementation of these guidelines is identified.
The State Expert Panels recommend that hospitals are prepared to make decisions for the allocation of scarce resources in a mass casualty incident by January 1, 2012.
1 The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, in its report, “Guidance for Establishing Crisis
Standards of Care for Use in Disaster Situations”, released September 24, 2009, uses “crisis standards of care”. There is also an earlier study, “Altered Standards of Care in Mass Casualty Events”, Agency for
Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), AHRQ Publication No. 05-0043, April 2005.
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C. Action Steps
This flowchart depicts the process recommended for the implementation of this project:
Role of Hospital Emergency Role of HospitalsPreparedness Program
Mission Statement:Mission Statement: Adopt these guidelines with the Provide guidelines to hospitals on the involvement of the hospital Medical allocation of scare resourcesStaff, professional and support staff
Develop workplan and time-line and Make guidelines accessible to hospitalsassign “Champion” to implement this
Establish Clinical Review CommitteeProvide means by which hospitals can (or equivalent) to review and adopt provide feedback on these guidelinesthese guidelines
Provide education to Medical Staff and Provide resources so that hospitals can hospital staff with opportunity for them exercise these guidelinesto provide feedback on guidelines
Collaborate with professional and
community organizations in the Guidelines are approved by hospital development, review and education of governing body
the public about these guidelines
Collaborate with professional Exercise these guidelines and address associations to educate state Corrective Actionslegislators about these guidelines
Collaborate with schools that train Educate patients and community about healthcare workers to include these these guidelinesguidelines as standard curriculum
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D. Trigger for Implementation
There is not yet national consensus on the “trigger‟ for the implementation of these guidelines. According to the Institute of Medicine, trigger points are reached when institutional surge capacity cannot accommodate the demand through conventional or contingency responses that do not require an adjusted standard of care. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) states that:
“Crisis care occurs under conditions in which usual safeguards are no longer
possible. Crisis care is provided when available resources are insufficient to meet
usual care standards, thus providing a transition point to implementing crisis
standards of care. Note that in an important ethical sense, entering a crisis
standard of care mode is not optional – it is a forced choice, based on the
emerging situation. Under such circumstances, failing to make substantive
adjustments to care operations – i.e., not to adopt crisis standards of care – is very 2likely to result in greater death, injury or illness”.
The State Expert Panels offer, for consideration, the following recommendations for a “trigger”. The following four conditions should be met before a hospital activates these guidelines.
1. There is a declaration of an emergency or a request has been made by the hospital for 3the declaration of an emergency.
2. The hospital has activated its Emergency Operations Plan.
3. The hospital is experiencing unavailability of critical resources and cannot access
these resources from other sources.
4. The hospital is unable to refer patients to another facility because of the emergent
a. All hospitals have Inter-Facility Transfer Agreements and these hospitals
should be contacted to determine if they can accept the transfer of patients. 4b. Hospitals are to reach out to an even wider radius of hospitals, including
those with which the hospital may not have Inter-Facility Transfer
E. Legal Protections
The issue of liability for hospitals in a mass casualty incident is evolving nationally. Presently, there are limited legal provisions or protections, if any, for hospitals that would implement allocation of scare resource guidelines in an emergency or mass casualty incident.
2 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM), Guidance for establishing crisis standards of
care for use in disaster situations: a letter report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2009;
page 15. 3 See Section I, Declaration of an Emergency. 4 What is a reasonable radius is dependent upon the circumstances of the incident and also on patient health and safety – how far can a patient be transported without jeopardizing patient safety and health. Version: November 1, 2010 Page 3 of 7
While Wisconsin statutes do not cite another or an altered standard of care applicable in an emergency or a mass casualty incident, the general standard of care governs the delivery of medical services. This standard of care takes into consideration the circumstances under which the practitioner acts and a mass casualty incident will have a drastic effect on these circumstances. In an emergency or mass casualty incident, practitioners will not actually be practicing below the standard of care; rather, the standard of care will reflect these circumstances.
At the present time, the following activities may provide the documentation necessary
to demonstrate to federal and state regulators and or to the courts that the hospital has
pre-planned its intent, if required by an incident, to make allocation of scarce resource
decisions or to go beyond what is permitted federal or state rules and regulations due
to the exigencies of the incident. It is recommended that the hospital:
1. have policy and procedure or plans (Emergency Operations Plan) that address
guidelines for the allocation of scare resources with these guidelines being
approved by its governing body,
2. has educated its staff in its Emergency Operations Plan, and
3. has exercised its Emergency Operations Plan.
F. Transparency to Our Communities
In the brochure, “Ethics of Health Care Disaster Preparedness”, the State Expert Panel on
the Ethics of Disaster Preparedness define transparency as:
Transparency/Openness: The process of developing the guidelines for the
allocation of scarce resources and how these guidelines will be applied in a
disaster is open to public discussion and scrutiny.
The State Expert Panels working on these guidelines are in agreement with this principle of transparency. However, hospitals must keep in mind that this project, although being addressed nationally and within the state, is in the early stages of its evolution. The following points should be considered:
1. Federal agencies, national and state professional associations, state preparedness
programs and others are in various stages of developing and implementing guidelines
for the allocation of scarce resources. There has been much published in the
professional literature about such guidelines.
2. The guidelines, referenced in this document, are, at the present time,
recommendations only. Although they have been developed by subject matter experts,
they have not yet been vetted by the healthcare community with the opportunity for
these healthcare professionals to comment and edit these guidelines.
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3. It is critical that hospital Medical Staff and healthcare workers be a part of this vetting process and reach consensus on the validity of these guidelines.
4. Hospitals and their Medical Staff and healthcare workers should have a basic understanding of these guidelines before these guidelines are shared with the
community so that they can appropriately address the questions and concerns of the community. It is important that Medical Staff and health professionals, know that “key messages” (see Section G) about these guidelines will be shared with the public.
G. How to Achieve Transparency with the Public
It has been recommended that sharing these guidelines with the community can best be accomplished through collaboration with professional and community associations that represent the community, e.g. associations for the elderly, the disabled, vulnerable populations, those with language barriers, etc. These associations, in turn, know best how to communicate with their constituents about these guidelines. As these professional and community associations share these messages with their constituents, hospitals should also communicate these key messages to their patients and communities.
Several State Expert Panels have already drafted an initial set of Key Messages for