Are Hospitals Ready for a Mass Tragedy? ER Docs Say No

Are Hospitals Ready for a Mass Tragedy? ER Docs Say NoIn a poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), nine out 10 emergency room doctors say their hospitals aren’t prepared for a mass tragedy or major disaster.

The poll also revealed that fewer than half of doctors believe their emergency rooms are only “somewhat” equipped to handle an incident that drastically increases ER patient load, like a mass shooting or natural disaster.

The poll’s methodology and findings

The ACEP surveyed 1,328 emergency room doctors between April 25 and May 6, 2018, and found an unexpected level of unpreparedness. Ninety-three doctors said they believed their ER would not be able to handle a patient surge from a natural or man-made disaster, like a hurricane or terrorist attack. Fewer than half felt their hospital was somewhat prepared. And nine out of 10 doctors stated that their emergency rooms lacked adequate stockpiles of critical medicines.

ACEP President Dr. Paul Kivela said in the poll’s news release, “Hospitals and emergency medical services continue to suffer significant gaps in disaster preparedness, as well as national drug shortages for essential emergency medications. These shortages can last for months, or longer, and constitute a significant risk to patients.”

According to Dr. Kivela, the findings also demonstrate a need for a stronger focus on the medical aspects of preparedness in the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2018 (PAHPAI), currently being drafted in Washington, D.C.

“Emergency physicians are concerned that our system cannot even meet daily demands, let alone during a medical surge for a natural or man-made disaster,” he added.

What are the next steps?

Almost 70% of doctors polled said drug shortages have significantly increased over the past year, and nearly 90% said they’ve had to take time away from treating their patients to explore alternative treatments and drugs. Based on the results of their poll, the ACEP is putting pressure on lawmakers for assistance in helping hospitals nationwide prepare for future emergencies.

Their suggestions include the following:

  • Consistent monitoring of resources when making hospital destination decisions for patients, including inpatient, ER department and trauma center capacity, on-call specialist coverage, and ambulance status.
  • Better communication and coordination between hospitals, trauma centers, emergency medical services, public health and safety services, and other local area facilities.
  • Implementing regional data management systems that link hospitals and other related facilities together.

“Congress must recognize that current shortages of essential emergency medications are a substantial threat to our nation’s preparedness and response capabilities. ACEP urges lawmakers to establish an inter-agency, inter-departmental, and multi-disciplinary task force that includes representation from the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, among others,” said Dr. Kivela.

ACEP is asking lawmakers to put together a task force with input from government agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. They also recommend making military trauma teams available to civilian trauma centers when they’re not deployed out in the field.

Hospitals are becoming increasingly understaffed and, therefore, chaotic. These types of conditions can cause mistakes, negligence, and medical malpractice.

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