August 28, 2009 | | Comments 0
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New York Times story is a “must read” for emergency planners

The New York Times just published a sad yet enlightening account of what happened at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

Many of you will remember that Memorial Medical was isolated and without power for days as employees and patients suffered through terrible conditions in the sweltering heat. Much of the story focused on allegations of clinicians euthanizing patients, with in-depth recollections from many people on duty during those tough days at the hospital.

I’ll let you make your own decisions about the patient deaths there. However, beyond that debate, the story is a “must read” for anyone involved with emergency planning in hospitals, as it pounds away on how many challenges staff members faced during the disaster response. You will think twice about your evacuation plans after reading the article.

Hospitals have plans that call for patient evacuations, all of which probably seems good on paper. But I doubt many facilities have drilled the scenario of moving dozens of patients down flights of stairs in darkness — using exhausted employees who may only have a few hours of sleep each day. That was just one of the plights at Memorial Medical.

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Scott Wallask About the Author: Scott Wallask is senior managing editor for HCPro's Hospital Safety Center (www.hospitalsafetycenter.com) and the award-winning newsletters, Briefings on Hospital Safety and Healthcare Life Safety Compliance. He has written about healthcare for HCPro since 1998, with a focus on occupational and building safety, emergency management, fire protection, and infection control. Prior to joining HCPro, he worked as a reporter for several newspapers in eastern Massachusetts. He holds a BA in print journalism, magna cum laude, from Northeastern University in Boston. Contact Scott at swallask@hcpro.com.

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