Hospitals damaged during Superstorm Sandy struggle to fight infections

Hospitals reopening in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and other natural disasters that cause flooding must be vigilant about preventing and controling infections to ensure patient safety, according to a study from the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Before reopening a healthcare system after any flood, hospitals must remove of flood waters, conduct a site inspection, clean and disinfect surfaces and materials, remediate mold through HVAC evaluation, restore air flow and check water and air samples for outbreaks of infectious diseases.

These protocols can be costly, but they're necessary to maintain a safe environment post-flooding, as examples from both the United States and Thailand have shown.

"Time and again, we have seen hospitals worldwide suffer devastating clinical and economic implications as a result of catastrophic flooding," said study author Anuncha Apisarnthanarak. "The healthcare community needs to come together, from infection control epidemiologists to hospital administration, to effectively create and implement flood preparedness plans that can mitigate risks both to patient safety and structural damage."

Last month, FierceHealthcare reported that emergency unpreparedness plagues states, mostly due to budget cuts. Some hospitals in New Jersey were well-prepared for the storm, however, absorbing patient overflow and showing improvement in emergency management and preparation among the state's medical centers.

After the hurricane, hospitals across the Northeast are still feeling its lingering effect, such as New York University's Langone Medical Center, which suffered major facility damages and obliterated research infrastructure.

To learn more:
- here's the study