The Huffington Post reported recently on troubling news regarding planning (or lackethereof) at a hosptial in New York in the midst of Hurricane Sandy. In all the talk about the mass power outages, subway floodings, property damage, and more, the effect on our most vulnerable is often given little attention. That include medical patients in hospitals.
Of course, it is absolutely incumbent upon all medical facilities to have emergency preparedness plans in place so that care is not sacrificied when things go wrong as a result of unexpected events. However, according to the recent report, one facility was forced to evacuate patients unexpectedly after the power went out and several back-up generators failed. Obviously access to electricity is critical for these facilities, because many patients’ lives literally rely on the functioning of the medical equipment used in their care. That is particularly true for patients who are on ventilators or may rely on extra outside oxygen support. Many other patients may need IV medication. On top of that, when the evacuation took place, it was critical for medical records and charts to follow each patient. It is easy to see how these sort of situations could descend into chaos and, without careful work every step of the way, patients might be harmed.
Employees familiar with the situation reported that the evacuation took all night on the Monday of the storm and half of the following day. It was an “exhausting” but “methodical” process. Apparently at least 300 residents were shifted to nearby facilities. That group including some very sick and vulnerable patients, like 20 newborn babies in the intensive care unit. No doubt the front-line care workers, nurses, students, assistants, volunteers, and others who aided in the effort did the best they could to handle what was undoubtedly a stressful situation.