Your hospital has addressed natural disasters within its Emergency Operations Plan. Taking into account such things as your hospital’s location and weather-related risks, the types of disasters that are most likely to occur have been identified through your hospital’s Hazard Vulnerability Analysis. Action plans have been created and communicated to the entire staff.
Seems like your hospital has this portion of the Emergency Operations Plan all set, right? Think again.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), health care organizations should not only address current risks, they should take it a step further and consider the effects of climate change. Climate change is anticipated to make extreme weather events even more intense and frequent, and hospitals need to be prepared.
To make this process easier, HHS created a toolkit for health care organizations to help plan for climate change. There are five main elements that are covered.
Climate Risks and Community Vulnerabilities Assessment
Health care organizations should conduct an assessment of current and future climate risks and address the impact of these risks on the community. Climate risks include everything from extreme heat and cold, to hurricanes and tornadoes, to floods and drought. Working with local and regional authorities will be an important part of information gathering for this step.
Land Use, Building Design and Regulatory Frameworks
The buildings and the land on which they sit should be examined to determine how well they can withstand weather events now and in the future. Things like roads and drainage systems should also be evaluated.
Infrastructure Protection and Resilience
Communications, energy, water and waste are essential elements of infrastructure that must be examined and strengthened if needed, so that health care facilities can remain operational during a disaster.
Essential Clinical Care Service Delivery Planning
Hospitals are expected to continue to provide care not only to their current patients in the midst of an extreme weather event, but to the potential surge of new patients that arrive as a result of the disaster. Additionally, non-injured community members may rely on the hospital as a temporary shelter and for clean food and water.
A solid stockpile of medical and non-medical supplies will be needed to accommodate this surge. This includes durable medical equipment such as extra cots, IV pumps and portable suction machines to help create extra patient care areas, as well as consumable equipment and medications.
The plan should also address how to ensure appropriate staffing- both for patient care and support services- during this critical time.
Environmental Protection and Strengthening of Ecosystems
Health care organizations should improve their sustainable practices and support healthy ecosystems. Monitoring water usage, maintaining green space, and preventing pollution are all ways to protect the environment and may have positive impacts on climate change.
Regardless of regional power failure or inaccessible snow-covered roads, the local community will be relying on your hospital to continue to provide patient care during extreme weather events. By addressing climate change and incorporating it into your Emergency Operation Plan, your hospital is taking a necessary step to prepare for the future.