Boston hospital officials say they can handle Olympic challenges

With much written in the past year about hospitals' preparedness to handle emergencies like the Ebola crisis, the recent news that Boston may host the 2024 Summer Olympics has highlighted the fact that infectious disease outbreaks aren't the only event that can put healthcare facilities to the test.

The most recent Summer Games in London drew more than 600,000 people to the city in 2012, an influx that medical institutions have to be prepared to handle just like any other human services infrastructure, according to the Boston Business Journal (BBJ). To find out if the city's hospitals are up to the challenge if the city wins its bid to host, the publication asked top Boston health officials how their institutions rank in terms of readiness.

Unsurprisingly, all six officials were optimistic that their institutions could handle the Olympic visitors, with many citing high-profile events such as the Democratic National Convention and Boston Marathon as evidence that "Boston is no stranger to special events," as Tufts Medical Center Emergency Management Director Rob Osgood put it.

Nor is it a stranger to emergency events, such as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that put facilities' disaster planning to the test and spurred hospitals around the country to reconsider their protocol, FierceHealthcare has reported.

Indeed, "Massachusetts hospitals have a history of responding well under pressure," Catherine S. Bromberg, senior director of external communications for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, told BBJ.

Not everyone is so optimistic that Beantown is a good choice to host the Games, however. A recent USA Today article chronicled the "9 reasons Boston is a terrible choice to host the 2024 Summer Olympics," and those opposed to the city hosting the event detail their grievances on the website "No Boston Olympics."

But officials at the city's hospitals, at least, are confident in their readiness given that the Games are such a long way off.

"We have a good head start with these events we've always been dealing with, and every year, we go through those, fine tune it and retest it," Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals Executive Director John Erwin told BBJ. "We'll be ready."

One way to help manage the unique healthcare challenges associated with the Olympics is to harness high-tech tools. Researchers have indicated that health officials can use online health surveillance systems as well as air-travel-tracking tools to help mitigate the spread of infectious diseases at large gatherings such as the Games, FierceHealthIT has reported.

The International Olympics Committee will decide on the host city for the 2024 games in 2017.

To learn more:
- read the BBJ article
- read the USA Today article

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