States hone health crisis plans to activate in catastrophes

State health departments nationwide are crafting new health crisis management plans that would guide medical and emergency-response professionals in catastrophes.

The scenarios they're considering are remote but could be dire. For example, a pandemic influenza swamps the availability of hospital ventilators or a terror attack overwhelms ambulances and trauma centers.

Federal agencies and the Institute of Medicine have pushed for the action plans that would shift care standards when hospitals, clinics and other medical settings across a region are pushed to the brink.

Developing the plans has required figuring out ethical and legal dilemmas because certain medication, hospital access and procedures could be selectively offered if an official crisis is declared.

Federal money tied to the effort sets a mid-2017 completion deadline.