John Mintz and Joby Warrick are right to highlight bioterrorism readiness ["U.S. Unprepared Despite Progress, Experts Say," front page, Nov. 8]. The administration's policies would make it harder for state and local hospitals and health agencies to detect and respond to a bioterrorist attack.

The president's fiscal 2005 budget proposed to eliminate the Metropolitan Medical Response System, a program designed to strengthen critical medical and public health infrastructure in vulnerable urban areas, while proposing cuts in dedicated state and local bioterrorism preparedness funding (11.2 percent) and hospital bio-preparedness funding (7.6 percent).

Recent reports also indicate that the distribution of key terrorism-related urban infrastructure funding is based less on threat susceptibility and more on pork-barrel politics. If we're serious about bioterrorism, we need to strengthen state and local hospitals and public health systems while we focus additional resources on high-threat urban areas.

KYLE KINNER

Legislative Director

Environmental Health Programs

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Washington

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We share concerns about shortcomings in regional coordination of emergency preparedness ["Shored Up for Disaster, Area Officials Still Fearful," news story, Nov. 8], but the public should know that Washington Hospital Center is implementing plans for handling any disaster that might affect our capital.

As the hospital that treated all the critically injured victims of the Pentagon attack on Sept. 11, 2001, and evaluated hundreds of patients during the anthrax attacks, we have experienced firsthand what damage terrorism can do.

The District is clearly a prime target. That is why we are building ER One, an emergency care center that will be equipped to handle the medical challenges of the post-Sept. 11 world. We also have built, with support from the Department of Health and Human Services, a multi-use, 20-bed ready room to deal with the worst in biological, chemical and natural disasters.

Preparation is more than a buzzword at the center. Our doctors and nurses practice preparedness every day. But much must still be done to prepare our hospitals and emergency responders for the medical consequences of a major attack.

MARK SMITH

Chairman

Department of Emergency Medicine

Washington Hospital Center

Washington