Senate's lone doctor poses disaster plan bill

Thursday, December 13, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Senate's only physician is proposing legislation that would expand Missouri's ability to respond to disasters such as a chemical or biological attack.

Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Seneca, chairman of the Senate Committee on Improving Health Care, has filed a bill that would broaden state government's ability to deal with a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

Singleton's Missouri State Emergency Health Act was prompted by the Sept. 11 attacks and anthrax-tainted mail found at locations nationwide.

"There are currently emergency procedures in place," Singleton said Wednesday. "But by putting these procedures into law, we guarantee that our state's health system is prepared if a disastrous situation should arise."

The bill is designed to balance personal rights and public health needs and would create a commission created by the governor to help plan for emergencies.

Under the bill, the declaration of an emergency would activate disaster response and recovery plans, and the deployment and use of state personnel and supplies.

"During an emergency, the public health authority would be required to use all available means to prevent and control the transmission of diseases," Singleton said.

Singleton also filed legislation that would allow health care professionals licensed in other state to work in Missouri in time of emergency.

The health care worker would be licensed for two weeks in Missouri and could have the license reissued every two weeks. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services would assign those health care workers to specific areas of need.

Susan Jenkins, who works on legislation with the Health Department, said that the agency is currently reviewing Centers for Disease Control guidance on emergency health plans.

But so far, looking at Missouri's laws on emergency health responses, Jenkins said: "We feel our laws are already very strong, but we are using the CDC guide as a checklist. So far, we have not seen anything that we're missing."

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