Disaster preparedness

Posted on April 8, 2011 by

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The Washington Post had a story yesterday that should raise some concerns, for a day or two:  “US Health Care System Unprepared for Major Nuclear Emergency, Officials Say”Disaster Relief

As I suggested in another post, it is difficult, if not impossible to be prepared for a catastrophe when our health care facilities are barely handling routine loads.

Disaster preparedness requires tremendous redundancies: Extra staff, extra supplies, extra equipment, extra medications, extra food, and alternative energy sources. Few if any modern health care facilities would have enough supplies to last 72 hours, let alone a week, or a month.

In most of our hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies the supplies are so stretched that if an overpass on a major Interstate highway collapsed, as happened in Connecticut along I-95 in 1983, or in Minnesota in 2007, it could be so disruptive that it would cut some communities off from routine supply chains for at least a day or two. If that happens the afternoon supplies are supposed to arrive, when facility supplies are at their low point, a 24 – 48 hour delay may not prove fatal, but it would certainly lead to compromised care.

The mathematics of preparedness is simple – plan for at least 2 – 3 standard deviations above average demand – not average demand. Yes, it costs more.  Yes, profits will disappoint the bean counters.

But what will be left of the heart and soul of nursing if we aren’t fighting to be prepared to care for our patients?

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