In summary

The California Legislature should reintroduce legislation to reinvest in the mobile field hospital program and emergency preparedness.

By Young Kim, Special to CalMatters

Young Kim, a former state Assemblywoman, is a Republican candidate for California’s 39th Congressional District, which includes parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, info@youngkimforcongress.com. She wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

If there is anything that the coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it is that it’s impossible to predict when a crisis will strike but it is possible to prepare. And preparation is key to dealing with such a crisis. 

We are still learning new information about the coronavirus, a virus that is nothing like what we have seen before in our lifetime. Our health experts and medical professionals are heroically working around the clock to prevent the spread, care for patients, and to research treatments and vaccines. The vast amount of new and changing information, as well as everything we don’t know yet, has led to uncertainty and fear.

At one time, California had three mobile hospitals with a combined capacity of 600 beds, purchased in 2007, to deploy in the case of large-scale emergencies. Each mobile field hospital could be deployed as a 200-bed acute care facility that includes an emergency department, operating room stations, an intensive care unit, isolation beds, x-ray equipment, laboratory testing and ventilators, among other supplies. 

The state also undertook a massive effort to stockpile emergency medical supplies such as N95 masks, portable ventilators and additional patient bed kits. At one point, it is reported that the state had a stockpile of N95 masks.  However, funding was eventually cut off and supplies dwindled.  The mobile field hospitals were not being maintained, and facilities were warehoused and collecting dust. So, now we are faced with huge demand and a shortage of supplies our health care workers desperately need.

As a state Assemblywoman, I co-authored a bill that would have made these field hospitals ready for deployment in times of emergency by appropriating $2 million to maintain and upkeep. It passed in the state Assembly but did not move past the Senate Budget Committee.  We couldn’t have expected the outbreak of COVID-19 then, and many of our leaders didn’t feel that this was an important investment. But these programs would have prepared California to more rapidly and better deal with the increasing cases we are currently experiencing.

I’m calling on the California Legislature to reintroduce this legislation to reinvest in the mobile field hospital program and emergency preparedness. At the national level, we need to build the local, state, federal, and international infrastructure and cooperation necessary to prevent a pandemic, do robust research and respond to protect the health and lives of American people. 

We know the threat of the coronavirus pandemic and gravity of the situation now. We are all adjusting to this new way of life. Our immediate priority is to stop the spread of the coronavirus, care for those affected and get the economy back on track. However, if we are not proactive now and invest in emergency preparedness, we will be reacting once again and will be one step behind the disaster. 

Preparedness will be even more critical as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned of a second wave of the coronavirus in the winter, coinciding with the flu season. Emergencies don’t come when it’s convenient for us. We need to make critical investments in emergency preparedness and act now so that we are better prepared to deal with the next emergency.

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Young Kim, a former state Assemblywoman, is a Republican candidate for California’s 39th Congressional District, which includes parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, info@youngkimforcongress.com. She wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

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