How well are healthcare institutions prepared for disasters?

Yzermans, J. How well are healthcare institutions prepared for disasters? Prehospital and Disaster Medicine: 2009, 24(suppl. 1) s106. Abstract. 16th World Congress for Disaster and Emergency Medicine,12-15 May 2009, Victoria (British Columbia), Canada.
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Introduction: The better healthcare providers are educated and trained and the more they practice their skills, the more they are prepared when disaster strikes. However, little is known about the current state of preparedness for managing disasters among healthcare providers. Methods: Representatives of all healthcare institutions in the Netherlands (hospitals, accident and emergency departments, ambulance services, regional health authorities and their branch organizations) were interviewed about the preparedness of their institutions. Results: The response rate was 75% (n = 211). Nearly half of them were educated in specific skills for managing disasters and 77% practiced those skills at least once in the past 12 months. Most exercises were internal and not mono- or multidisciplinary; were tabletop and not real-life; and concerned “flash crisis” and not pandemics, floods, or chemical incidents. The majori ty of respondents (84%) recommended that the authorities standardize tasks and functions because the current state of preparedness is too informal and lacks uniformity and quality. The bottlenecks mentioned most frequently were lack of resources, capacity, commitment, and mutual communication. Conclusions: Ambulance services were better prepared than the other institutions. Some years every hospital is obliged to implement a regional hospital emerge n cy management plan. This obligation gave an important impetus for better preparation, but there still is a need for standardization.Besides, there is too mu ch focus on “common” disasters, and there still is a lack of urge n cy among most healthca re providers. (aut. ref.)