Introduction: Improved health outcomes are associated with neonatal and pediatric critical care in well-organized, cohesive, regionalized systems that are prepared to support and rehabilitate critically ill victims of a mass casualty event. However, present systems lack adequate surge capacity for neonatal and pediatric mass critical care. In this document, we outline the present reality and suggest alternative approaches.
Methods: In May 2008, the Task Force for Mass Critical Care published guidance on provision of mass critical care to adults. Acknowledging that the critical care needs of children during disasters were unaddressed by this effort, a 17-member Steering Committee, assembled by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education with guidance from members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, convened in April 2009 to determine priority topic areas for pediatric emergency mass critical care recommendations.Steering Committee members established subcommittees by topic area and performed literature reviews of MEDLINE and Ovid databases. The Steering Committee produced draft outlines through consensus-based study of the literature and convened October 6-7, 2009, in New York, NY, to review and revise each outline. Eight draft documents were subsequently developed from the revised outlines as well as through searches of MEDLINE updated through March 2010.The Pediatric Emergency Mass Critical Care Task Force, composed of 36 experts from diverse public health, medical, and disaster response fields, convened in Atlanta, GA, on March 29-30, 2010. Feedback on each manuscript was compiled and the Steering Committee revised each document to reflect expert input in addition to the most current medical literature.
Task force recommendations: States and regions (facilitated by federal partners) should review current emergency operations and devise appropriate plans to address the population-based needs of infants and children in large-scale disasters. Action at the state, regional, and federal levels should address legal, operational, and information systems to provide effective pediatric mass critical care through: 1) predisaster/mass casualty planning, management, and assessment with input from child health professionals; 2) close cooperation, agreements, public-private partnerships, and unique delivery systems; and 3) use of existing public health data to assess pediatric populations at risk and to model graded response plans based on increasing patient volume and acuity.