Submitted by Robert Feinberg, MS, EMT-P, PA-C, CHEP, and System Director, Emergency Management
As a clinician, you prepare every day. You preview your patient’s charts, you prepare for procedures, you organize and prepare differential diagnoses, then develop a treatment plan. By preparing, you are mitigating untoward events and anticipating unexpected process changes.
As a health care provider, Main Line Health also has to be prepared, not just for normal daily operations, but for community emergencies, too, whether it’s mass casualties in a rail accident, a weather-related emergency, or a contagious disease outbreak. Emergency preparedness means preparing for unexpected events as well as preparing for a limited resource environment. The staff in MLH Emergency Departments, for instance, receive decontamination training to be ready in case they face toxic or infectious situations. This training is provided monthly throughout MLH.
Whether in a medical center or at home, emergency preparedness consists of the same process: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. At MLH, these processes help keep our staff, patients and visitors safe, and enable our clinicians to focus on treating each patient rather than worrying about supplies or staff or where they’ll sleep.
A relatively common event in emergency preparedness that we experience every year, as individuals and as a System, is a weather-related crisis, such as a hurricane or a winter storm. As an organization, we identify such possible emergencies in advance and establish an overall plan. As the crisis nears, the plan is implemented: we monitor the weather, staffing patterns, medical supplies, and fuel supplies; we test our backup generators, discuss off-site services with senior leadership, develop sleep locations for staff, and make sure there will be enough nutritional supplies for patients, staff and visitors, along with many other details. All this, in addition to our daily operational activities. (In the 2014 – 2015 winter season, we experienced over 20 storms that activated our Incident Command teams throughout Main Line Health, keeping the winter weather’s impact to patient care to a minimum.)
Individually, we should also perform the same types of preparation, albeit on a smaller scale.
To reduce the impact of unplanned events, we continue to emphasize during our educational programs the concept of planning at home. Such preparation could well be life-saving for you, your family, your staff and your patients, and could also reduce a community emergency’s impact on your practice.
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