A rehabilitation and nursing home were forced to evacuate over 100 patients because of a gas leak. Then there were those pictures on the news of elderly people waist-deep water from Hurricane Harvey as water flooded into their nursing home. Finally, there were the 35 patients that died from flooding in their nursing home from Hurricane Katrina
These stories are real and remind us all that elderly people living in facilities need to have emergency plans to remove them from the danger. Most if not all these people cannot rescue themselves and depend on the caregivers of the facility to help them. Too many times these caregivers fail. When that happens, people face severe danger, and some even die.
What can be done? The owners of these type of facilities need to develop viable Continuity of Operations (COOP) capabilities to ensure these residents or patients are safe. COOP planning must is done in advance of the emergency. Contract for
- Space and facilities to relocate patients and residents too.
- Travel and transportation services to get patients and residents to an alternate
- Employees to stay and provide their services in the event of an emergency even at a different location.
- Meals and medical services at an alternate location.
- Travel and transportation services to get patients and residents back to the original site after resolving the emergency.
This plan should allow staff to move patients or residents to an alternate location before or just as the emergency strikes. It will provide for any treatment as well as meals and care while at an alternate site. Lastly, it will bring everyone back to the original facility. It is also important to notify the relatives or guardians of the patients or residents that they have relocated. Here are some things that I think are helpful:
- Delegate full authority for the person in charge of the facility to act.
- Train employees about their roles in the event of an emergency.
- Maintain vital records and databases in electronic format an alternate site.
Since there will likely be medical records on site, it is important to ensure that information is available at the alternate site. Do this with information technology equipment and transmissions.
It is essential that a risk assessment is conducted for the alternate site to identify risks. Act on those risks and reduce as many as possible.
This blog post touched on a grave weakness with nursing and rehabilitation facilities not fully prepared for emergencies such as hurricanes. Without this planning, it will be very difficult if not impossible to respond. Moreover, if the response is weak patients or residents can die.