A Hospital System's Response To A Hurricane Offers Lessons, Including The Need For Mandatory Interfacility Drills

Health Affairs (Impact Factor: 4.97). 08/2012; 31(8):1814-21. DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.0154
Source: PubMed


This case study explores the lessons learned when the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, a large, integrated health network in New York, evacuated three hospitals at high risk of flooding from Hurricane Irene in August 2011. The episode resulted in the evacuation, transport, and placement of 947 patients without any resulting deaths or serious injuries. This case demonstrates the utility of having in place a functional evacuation plan, such as the one North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System developed through its own full-scale exercises in the years following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In those drills, the health system discovered that it needed to abandon its 1:1 matching of patients to available beds in the region in favor of the group transport of patients with similar needs to facilities that could accommodate them. Despite its overall success, the system identified the need for internal improvements, including automated patient tracking through the use of bar-coded wristbands and identification and training of additional backup personnel for its emergency operations center. Among other changes, policy makers at the state and federal levels should consider mandating full-scale interfacility evacuation drills to refine mechanisms to send and receive patients.

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