Enhanced emergency preparedness the focus of new hospital design

As readers of FierceHealthcare already know, Hurricanes Irene and Katrina exposed that there is much to be desired on the hospital emergency preparedness front. Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center wants to change all of that.

The new Rush has ramped up its protection against bioterrorist attacks, deadly pandemics, and industrial accidents, reports the Chicago Tribune. In fact, its $654 million facility may be one of the best-prepared in the nation.

Rush's ER includes 60 treatment bays that can be doubled to accommodate more patients and ambulance bays that can be use for decontamination. Its surveillance system can track diseases spreading across the city, while pillars in the lobby have hidden panels for easy access to oxygen and other gases, notes the Tribune.

"The ERs of the past are focused on traumas, colds and broken bones," Dr. Dino Rumoro, Rush's chairman of emergency medicine, told the Tribune. "But we're prepared--not just for bioterrorism, but for the kind of infectious and pandemic diseases that can overwhelm any hospital. It's a whole new era."

This new era of hospital emergency preparedness follows a September report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that showed that the United States may not be any more prepared against bioterrorism than a decade ago. However, telehealth and social media have helped hospitals enhance their emergency preparedness over the last 10 years.

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