Disaster recovery efforts for hospitals the focus of new AHRQ guides

Between a lack of emergency preparedness shown at hospitals during 2005's Hurricane Katrina and more recent findings that many California hospitals might not survive an earthquake without major renovations, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality decided it wasn't taking any(more) chances, simultaneously publishing two guides to help hospitals through disaster-like situations. 

The agency's Hospital Evacuation Decision Guide goes over the differences between "pre-event evacuations"--actions taken prior to a disaster--and "post-event evacuations," using examples like the aforementioned Katrina, the Northridge, Calif., earthquake of 1994 and the nuclear reactor incident at Three Mile Island in 1979, according to a press release. 

In turn, the Hospital Assessment and Recovery Guide uses a 45-page checklist to outline when and how to reoccupy a hospital after a disaster. 

"Hospitals should be a safe haven, particularly during an emergency situation, but unfortunately hospitals themselves sometimes find that they are in harm's way," AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy said. "These guides will give hospital planners additional information from their peers who have been through the ordeal of providing care during disaster conditions so they can benefit from lessons learned in the field." 

In a related story, Memorial Hospital in Belleville, Ill., appears to have successfully dealt with a minor emergency situation after a small chemical spill in one if its operating rooms on Thursday, according to an article in the Belleville News-Democrat. After a bottle of phenol--a caustic substance used to cauterize wounds that can cause "respiratory discomfort" if inhaled--broke on the floor and splashed on a nearby man, local Hazmat teams were dispatched to the facility. 

The man and three nurses who were exposed to the fumes all were treated, while all adjacent operating rooms were emptied and cleaned immediately following operations that were ongoing at the time of the spill. The newspaper reported ORs on the opposite side of the hospital were not affected. 

To learn more:
- read this AHRQ press release
- here's the Hospital Evacuation and Decision Guide
- here's the Hospital Assessment and Recovery Guide
- here's the Belleville News-Democrat article