As Hurricane Sandy made her approach into the New Jersey and New York coastlines, Hackensack University Medical Center, in Hackensack, N.J., was busy taking all possible precautions and preparations in order to continue to safely provide necessary patient care and ensure sufficient supply levels.
In advance of the storm, HackensackUMC’s Mobile Satellite Emergency Department (MSED) vehicles were deployed to a number of low-lying communities, such as Hillsborough, N.J., where it was deemed likely that residents would be in need of emergency care during the storm.
The emergency vehicles are 43-foot box trucks with expandable sides fully outfitted with seven critical care beds having monitor-defibrillator capability; portable digital X-ray unit; telemedicine capability; portable field laboratory; small pharmaceutical cache; overhead medical procedure lighting; and onboard medical gases. The fully functional mobile emergency departments, staffed by HackensackUMC emergency physicians, nurses and operations personnel, can be rapidly deployed. Hackensack UMC also has deployed six MSED support vehicles for communications, supplies and equipment.
“We are doing our part to help our patients, their families and our community through this natural disaster,” said Joseph Feldman, chairman of Emergency Medicine at HackensackUMC, in a press release.
Hackensack University Medical Center has conducted other precautions in preparation for the storm, including assessing the risk of the storm’s impact on their infrastructure; protecting critical transportation pathways with exterior windows; stocking extra batteries for biomedical equipment on patient care units; backing up essential equipment by generator; providing portable radios and cell phones to patient care areas; staffing patient care units with staff who plan to stay at the hospital for the next three days; setting up and manning a hospital Command Center.
In addition, fuel and water tankers are on site for re-supply in case roadways are blocked and supplies cannot get through; medications and medical supplies have been stockpiled to assure continuity of patient care; water and food supplies have been increased; disaster oxygen supplies are ready for deployment; portable air conditioning units and fans are pre-deployed to key areas; emergency plans for medical waste removal /storage are in place; and emergency plans for water utility failure are in place.
Supply chain disruptions are of major concern to hospitals during natural disasters.
In an interview with Healthcare Finance News last year, DeAnn Cross, senior clinical manager at Irving, Texas-based supply contracting firm Novation, said, “The first part of being prepared for a disaster is having a template for what you will need. Be prepared in advance with a list of supplies.”
For hospitals that are hit hard by a storm, Cross recommends looking to other area hospitals for assistance because a natural disaster may devastate one facility but leave another unharmed nearby.
“Seek your local sources,” said Cross. “Coordinate with other local hospitals. Ask ‘How are we going to work with one another? Can we borrow supplies in an emergency?’”