Response Preparation - Healthcare Assessments

Surge capacity, the influx of unexpected increased numbers of patients, is important in healthcare assessment and planning. Preparing for increased numbers of afflicted, injured and non-afflicted but concerned, patients are common in these types of incidents. As has been seen in the recent terrorist events, while the number of deaths for the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal building was 168, over 500 were injured, and over 5000 patients were injured or requested care with 12 killed in the Tokyo subway sarin gas incident in March of 1995.

Emergency medical services, hospitals and the local response community will need to address how they will staff, and expand their capability and capacity to respond to the surge of ill, injured or severely anxious patients. Additionally JCAHO Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals Organization requires a hospital facility to have at least one room with a shower to decontaminate one patient. If there are dozens or hundreds of contaminated patients presenting to the hospital or emergency department without prior decontamination the facility and existing hospital personnel may be exposed, become ill and unable to work to care for others.

The recognition and planned decontamination of mass numbers of casualties is important for hospital disaster planning and will need to go beyond calling the local fire department or Hazardous Materials team which may already be involved onsite in the community in the review of the hospital and community disaster plans.

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