In my role as CIO and a Professor of Medicine, I’m asked many questions about the policies, processes, and procedures of healthcare. Here’s one I was recently asked about Hospital Disaster planning. Meg Femino, BIDMC Director of Emergency Management, prepared the answer.
Your hospital has been placed on alert for receiving patients from a local explosion at a large factory. Reports from the scene are spotty in terms of numbers killed or injured, and you do not know how many patients you may be getting. News reports are calling for casualties in the 100s, but local fire responders are sending in conflicting reports. You need to know what your ED will be receiving, so you can determine whether to close surgery to elective cases and to go on ED bypass for regular patients. Rumors are swirling inside the hospital and the chain of command about how severe the incident is and what it will do to your ability to function. What thoughts do you have about how to learn what you need to know in order to structure the hospital’s preparations and continue regular functioning at the same time? What resources can you tap in order to learn more accurately about the situation at the scene and what you can expect to come to your ED? How would you manage this situation to cause the minimum disruption to regular hospital functioning?
When faced initially with a disaster situation in a health care setting, what do you think your first five steps need to be? Why?
This can be a common scenario, early information is always scant, unconfirmed and conflicting. Due to the mechanism of injury (explosion), chances are traumatic injuries will be present. That is what we would base our initial response on until credible information came in. We would immediately implement the following strategies:
- Activate the Emergency Operations Plan and the Incident Command System
- We would report to EMS via our disaster radio how many red (emergent), yellow (urgent) and green (non urgent) patients we can take. This is only a guide for EMS to distribute patients equally if they can, in a large mass casualty, you get what you get.
- Clear as many patients out of the Emergency Department as we could- admitted patients upstairs immediately, discharge others and decision make on the rest
- Alert the trauma teams with numbers expected, injuries, time to ED and any other pertinent information available
- Alert the OR’s to hold any currently open rooms, do not start any other cases until we have more information and begin to assemble trauma teams. We know from previous drills we can open 17 OR rooms with staffed teams in 2 hours if we have to, this would involve canceling all non-emergent surgeries.
- We would see how many staffed in-patient beds are available in house and prepare for early discharges if we needed to. I call this the purge to surge.
- Alert the blood bank of potential incoming trauma to prepare for high volume of blood use
- Open the command center and assemble incident command team and begin gleaning information.
How we get information and share information during a citywide event:
- The Boston Hospitals have a emergency manager on call 24/7 for events like this. We would immediately be in touch with him, he liaisons with other citywide agencies and shares this information with hospitals.
- The TV provides information and usually pictures of the scene so we can get a better idea of the scope
- The city utilizes WebEOC which is a software system all hospitals, public safety, public health, EMS and others are linked in to. This system would be active within 15 minutes. Informations is shared here across disciplines and is great for situational awareness. We can also share our situation with others, make resource requests and monitor others.
- Boston also has a medical intelligence center housed at Boston EMS, they would be pushing out information as it comes available. They would be asking our needs and monitoring the situation.
- We (hospital emergency managers) receive information messages from state agencies via the HHAN (Health and Homeland Alert Network), if they activate the state EOC etc.
- We also monitor the disaster radio in the ED, they will update us on how many more patients on scene, where they are going etc.
We flex our incident command team up or down as needed for response and tailor our response strategies to the needs of the event. As far as the five first steps I would say
- Activation of the Emergency Operations Plan and notification Incident Command- this brings the team approach to the response
- Preparing the hospital for patient surge
- Gleaning information and sharing information to establish accurate situational awareness
- Monitoring of resources- finding the balance with staffing and burn rates of supply. This allows you to continue treating and know when to call for more.
- Stabilizing the event- treating those from the event to return the hospital to normal operations
In addition to his CIO role at BIDMC, Dr. Halamka blogs at GeekDoctor.blogspot.com.