The Department of Health and Human Services should develop a workforce target for the National Disaster Medical System to ensure it can effectively respond to the nation’s current and future needs, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office. HHS responded to COVID-19, in part, by deploying doctors, nurses and others enrolled in the NDMS, who generally work outside the federal government but may assist with federal public health emergencies.

In 2018, the agency developed an enrollment target for NDMS of 6,290 responders, but did not consider whether its workforce was capable of responding to a nationwide event, multiple concurrent events and the needs of at-risk individuals, or the availability of other medical responders to ensure the target was adequate and not redundant, GAO said.

The report also recommends HHS evaluate whether NDMS training effectively prepares its responders for deployment, including keeping them and others safe during an emergency such as COVID-19.

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