Perspective is everything when we talk about tragedy. It is eerie how benign cautioning words can seem when read before a crisis, and how glaringly relevant the same words are after the event. In the May/June 2005 issue of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting we ran an article titled “Preparing for Disaster.”
Even though it’s just a few short weeks since Hurricane Katrina and only a few short months since “Preparing for Disaster” ran, I was tempted to run the article again. Even before Hurricane Katrina, disaster management seemed important, and the article had a gentle and moderate tone to it. Now, just a few months later, it screams with urgency that disaster management is now as important as ever, but now we have a clearer vision of the necessity.
Instead of re-publishing the article in its entirety, below are just a few excerpts that were important when it ran, but following Katrina, resonate at a deafening decibel level.
.. communities depend on local hospitals during the most desperate moments. It is imperative that providers be prepared.
Following Sept. 11, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) designated disaster management one of seven “environments of care.”
According to JCAHO, “There is a fundamental need for templates and scalable models for community-wide preparedness to guide planning before, and actions taken during and after, an emergency.”
JCAHO also has insisted that providers make care for caregivers a high priority. That means providing things such as personal protective equipment, vaccinations, prophylactic antibiotics, chemical antidotes and counseling. What’s more, JCAHO insists that caregivers be able to attend to their families’ concerns, including two-way information on their statuses and that of their family members.
Hospital administrators and employees must embrace and practice disaster management programs, so the programs will be reliable during the galloping, intense tempo of real crises.
I think most people wish they would have or could have done more during the initial relief efforts after Katrina hit. It seems like the actions taken by so many in our community have been most commendable, as reported by Mark Thill on page 32 in his contribution, “Tragedy Tightens Supply Chain.” It always amazes me how the worst of times can bring out the best in people.
Needless to say, I hope we never see tragedy like this again. I do hope the preparation for disasters is prioritized with great urgency by IDNs, hospitals and caregivers everywhere.