Most hospitals better prepared for disasters

It seems that hospitals have been bolstering their emergency response plans, as more than 76 percent that are part of the National Hospital Preparedness Program met 90 percent or more of measures for all-hazards preparedness in 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday. Of roughly 6,300 hospitals nationwide, more than 85 percent participate.

The state-by-state report shows that many hospitals use dedicated redundant, interoperable systems to facilitate communication between hospitals, public health agencies and emergency managers. During a disaster, these hospitals can notify a state, territory or city emergency operations center with the number of available beds in less than 60 minutes.

The majority of hospitals also have plans in place to accommodate a rise in the demand for care during a disaster. In addition, these hospitals put in plans for evacuating the hospital, sheltering patients and staff during a disaster, and responding to mass fatalities, notes the HHS.

To enhance emergency preparedness, the report suggests hospitals form healthcare coalitions within their community, comprised of care providers, government agencies, nongovernment organizations, businesses and community residents. Working as a team will enable hospitals to better prepare for and respond to disasters, notes the HHS.

Despite the good news, there is still room for improvement, as other studies have shown gaps in emergency preparedness, such as most state health departments lacking adequate preparation for nuclear incidents.

For more:
- read the HHS announcement