October 05, 2007 | | Comments 0
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A shift in the thinking behind closing hospitals during a disaster

Within The Joint Commission’s revised emergency management standards, an important consideration (and this is clearly derived from the Gulf Coast experience) is to know when your organization can no longer safely sustain patient care and thus must take steps to cease operations, either partially or completely.

This may involve relocation of your operations, the migration of your patients to another facility, or even a mix of the two. Every circumstance has a tipping point and the new defining preparedness characteristic for hospitals is a level of self-awareness that can recognize and act upon that point.

In the past, I think that there was a tacit understanding on the part of everyone involved (hospitals, regulators, communities, etc.) that hospitals would not close, or more to the point, could not close. We need look no further than the legal imbroglios regarding the disposition of patients in the aftermath of Katrina to see that, as an industry, a critical part of our continuity plans is to know when continuation is not possible and, I daresay, could be considered dangerous.

With luck, we will never have to face such circumstances again, but I don’t think the odds are in our favor.

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Filed Under: Emergency management

Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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