Healthcare resilience: Prepare for mass casualty events and infectious outbreaks

Fifth in a series of excerpts from the IMEG executive guide, “The Importance of Healthcare Resiliency: Preparing Your Hospital for a Disaster.”

By Eric Vandenbroucke

How your hospital reacts in the minutes and hours after a mass casualty event or infectious outbreak can be the difference between lives saved and lives lost. Having procedures and plans in place for quick action is essential to achieving resiliency. The specific courses of action will depend largely on your hospital’s capabilities and unique situation. Here, however, are several broad questions you’ll need to answer as you develop your plans.  

How will you transport patients if you reach capacity? An October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas left hundreds of victims in need of emergency surgery, overwhelming the nearest hospital. Consider how your hospital would react if you reached capacity and were unable to service a large, critically injured population.  

Do you have the infrastructure to expand your ED quickly? Consider how you can adjust your building’s infrastructure to expand your services quickly if needed. For instance, hide medical gas outlets and oxygen vacuums in a corridor to expand service locations and increase the number of patients you can treat. 

How will you handle extra emergency response vehicles? If multiple emergency response vehicles descend on your hospital at once, you’ll likely need a designated space to direct them to park. An additional temporary helipad can be as simple as putting pavers down in a grassy area.  

Do you have a plan to manage family members and media? During a crisis, your hospital will likely be surrounded with media looking for the story and family members hoping their loved ones are safe. You’ll need a strategy to manage this crowd and ensure they can get enough information to calm the panic.  

What is your protocol for quarantining a patient with an infectious disease? When you discover a patient has a highly infectious disease, you need to act quickly to ensure the least amount of exposure. That’s why you need a clearly established protocol.  

Do you have a permanent or temporary quarantine space? The most popular option is to have an adaptable space that can be quickly assembled when necessary and located where you can can maintain the right air pressure for sterility. This type of need can be addressed with the acuity adaptability model of healthcare design, in which a patient remains in the same room from admission to discharge, regardless of changes in acuity. This leaves little or no risk that they will infect other patients or healthcare personnel since multiple transfers from one unit to another do not occur. 

To learn more about this topic, read the IMEG executive guide, “The Importance of Healthcare Resiliency: Preparing Your Hospital for a Crisis.”  For summaries of other topics in the guide, read:


Categories: Sustainability