In times of disaster, the demand for immediate emergency healthcare services can quickly surpass an area’s capacity. Most disasters are localized, and residents who are sick or injured depend on the care, services, and expertise provided by the local hospital. It’s critical for the hospital system to have an effective recovery and management plan in place.
Here are some considerations for designing a comprehensive, multi-faceted, and scenario-driven approach to disaster response:
Disasters are unpredictable
In the aftermath of a disaster, patients in need of care will instinctively head to the nearest hospital. Most disaster recovery plans address preparation for the onslaught of emergencies, overcrowding, and insufficient personnel. But, you also need to plan for the possibility that the facility may be unreachable for some. Roads may be impassable due to flooding, landslides, or debris. Transportation services may be limited, or the hospital itself may be damaged or inoperable.
How to prepare for the worst
Under any conditions, hospitals need to be resilient. They need to be able to absorb and respond to the shock of a disaster, continue to provide critical functionality and work quickly to recover to their original state. Sometimes that may require the help of an outside organization who can fill the gaps and bring imaging and emergency clinical services to the community.
A well-designed recovery plan should most certainly consider partnering with a mobile health care provider that, when necessary, can respond quickly and arrive at any location with the critical staff, supplies, and equipment.
In preparation, it’s important to research your vendors. Before the emergency you should use due diligence to identify providers who are reputable and have the appropriate credentials like ISO 9000 accreditation and the Joint Commission (JCAHO) certification. They’ll have the policies and procedures already in place and have the support structure, too. In doing so, you’ll ensure the same high quality of care for your patients, regardless of who administers it.
How will service be delivered?
A mobile healthcare unit is comprised of a fully equipped, furnished, tractor-trailer with onboard equipment powered by a generator. It can be parked at almost any location that has a flat surface. Asphalt is ideal because its surface is firm and level, but tightly packed gravel is an option in certain cases.
Once it’s delivered to the designated site, the staff will set up the equipment and establish the electrical and internet connections. These mobile units can provide CT, MRI and Ultrasound imaging as well as acting as a freestanding medical clinic.
The mobile healthcare company can provide a team of fully functional personnel to operate the unit, but their personnel can also provide on-site ad hoc equipment training to your staff in order to provide a continuum of care.
What information will we need to provide?
During a disaster, the following information can help decrease response time and significantly increase a mobile unit’s preparedness.
1. Network information
Providing network information in advance of arrival allows the unit to establish a connection as quickly as possible and minimize start-up time.
2. Identification of an alternative site, as needed
Potential alternative sites should be identified well in advance of any disaster, if possible. Whether it’s an empty parking lot, a football field, or any other location, permissions should be in place prior to the mobile unit’s arrival. It’s also helpful if on-site power is identified, rather than relying on the onboard generator.
It’s important to have an accurate count of your available staff and be able to communicate your additional personnel needs. Upon the unit’s arrival, there should be a key staff member who can take charge of the unit and give direction to the team.
4. Resolution of specific state regulation conflicts
Any specific state regulations that can complicate delivery of services should be identified in advance. For example, some mobile healthcare companies may not be registered in all states, and special prior approval may be needed.
Planning is not a prerequisite
While partnering with a mobile healthcare company in advance is the best approach to managing any disaster scenario, it’s not a prerequisite. Mobile healthcare companies can often respond on-demand and together you can still create a customized plan as you go.
The most important thing is that people receive the necessary medical attention and can trust their local hospital to continue to provide the highest level of quality care, even in the face of disaster.