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Voluntary Temporary Reassignment of Federally Funded State, Tribal, and Local Health Department Personnel During Public Health Emergencies

posted on Wed, Dec 11 2013 3:00 pm by Gregory Sunshine

Public health emergencies can create a massive strain on state, tribal, and local health department resources, and often emergency response personnel are in short supply. Under section 201 of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 (PAHPRA), health departments will be able to temporarily reassign federally funded personnel stationed in their departments to respond to a public health emergency. The assistant secretary for preparedness and response released proposed guidance for the voluntary temporary reassignment of state and local personnel during a public health emergency and is accepting comments until December 17, 2013.

How will the voluntary temporary reassignment work?

Section 201 of PAHPRA requires the following before federally funded health department personnel are temporarily reassigned for emergency response purposes:

  1. A public health emergency must be declared by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 247d(a).
  2. The governor or tribal leader of the affected jurisdiction must request the temporary reassignment.
  3. The request must include assurances that the available public health workforce is not sufficient to respond to the emergency, that the emergency will be addressed more efficiently and effectively with reassignment, and that reassignment is consistent with the jurisdiction’s applicable All-Hazards Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan.
  4. The request must also list the affected federal programs and how many individuals from each program would be reassigned.

If the secretary grants the request for temporary reassignment, all potentially affected personnel must have the opportunity to volunteer for reassignment and may not be forced to agree to a temporary reassignment.

When does the temporary reassignment end?

The voluntary temporary reassignment ends when the secretary determines that a public health emergency no longer exists, or thirty days after the request was approved, whichever occurs first. However, the governor or tribal leader may request an extension.

Proposed guidance has been released and comments will be received until December 17, 2013.

For more information, to view the guidance, and to submit comments, visit Guidance for Temporary Reassignment of State and Local Personnel during a Public Health Emergency.

For more helpful resources on public health law, visit the Public Health Law Program and subscribe to The CDC Public Health Law News.

This guest blog post was prepared by Gregory Sunshine, J.D., an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education legal fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Law Program. PHLP provides technical assistance and public health law resources to advance the use of law as a public health tool. PHLP cannot provide legal advice on any issue and cannot represent any individual or entity in any matter. PHLP recommends seeking the advice of an attorney or other qualified professional with questions regarding the application of law to a specific circumstance.

The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state. The views expressed in this post do not represent those of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

View this resource for more information about PAHPRA.

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