Hospital Evacuations Lacking Guidance

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, hospitals and other healthcare facilities in the region were ill prepared for the damage that the storm brought to the area. This ultimately led to the increased suffering of patients, and in some cases death. The most recent hurricane to hit U.S. shores was Superstorm Sandy, which again tested the ability of healthcare facilities — in states like New York and New Jersey — to respond in the face of a natural disaster of epic proportions.

Luckily, lessons learned from Katrina were applied during Sandy, but there were still some areas of contention that stood out after the storm passed through. The issues were mainly in the area of patient evacuation, with a balancing act of evacuating too soon as opposed to waiting too long to move fragile patients. And while, for the most part, these evacuations were pulled off successfully, the question remains, why do medical facilities have such a hard time dealing with natural disasters that affect them directly?

These institutions should be commended for their actions when dealing with patients suffering from some catastrophe, according to http://jama.jamanetwork.com. But when it comes down to it, when faced with a situation that threatens their own ability to respond, some fail on even the most basic of principals. For the most part, there are no guidelines for when, or even if, patients should be evacuated. Officials at such facilities have to weigh many variables, such as patient safety, cost, and whether it is even an option to move the most critical of patients to a location out of harm’s way.

And maybe that is the problem. The lack of guidelines makes it easy for officials to make the wrong call. If guidelines were in place, then hospitals and healthcare facilities would have no choice but to follow them or risk charges being brought against them. Decisions that affect life should not be left up to the individual decision of a select few, with some making the correct choice and others failing to make the grade. Guidelines would do away with this critical issue of response and potentially save patient lives.

For more information about hospital guidelines and response during disasters, visit: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1392488