Thursday, February 26, 2015

Emergency Preparedness and Recovery in a Hospital - A Great Professor for a Day!

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Brian Rust, the Director of Security Services at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, which is now owned by Mass General Hospital, speak to my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class.

Mr. Rust was originally scheduled to speak the week before but he had several emergencies to contend with and I am not talking about patient emergencies, so he had to reschedule.

Mr. Rust was a terrific Professor for a Day - sharing with us the planning behind emergency preparedness in a hospital, which aims to provide "the best healthcare in an appropriate setting."
Last week he had to contend with multiple emergencies, beginning with a computer failure on Monday, which was fixed by a Cisco switch brought in from eastern MA, followed by  complete communication failure on Wednesday (supposedly not related to the Monday one)  with no Internet or phone lines available. Hence, medical records could not be accessed, and CAT scans and X-rays could not be read. Back to documentation on paper, which he said the older healthcare providers were comfortable with since they had used such basic approaches earlier in their careers, in contrast to the more recently trained healthcare workers, which are so dependent on computers. Appointments had to be cancelled. This major disruption was fixed on Wednesday but then Wednesday afternoon a sprinkler pipe burst and flooded the back of the Emergency Room with thousands of gallons of water pouting in. Moreover, the water was not clean but dark and the texture of oil, he said.  There is a new cancer facility being constructed above the Emergency Room area and it seems that the pipe was not properly insulated.  With facility experts on hand (luckily, he said, not everything has been outsourced) in a few hours the area was cleaned up and disinfected. During that period, however, ambulances had to be diverted to other hospitals, which can be "expensive" in terms of additional time needed for delivering the patient and in that Cooley Dickinson loses any financial compensation since it did not serve those patients. He noted that 4 ambulances were diverted.

His talk was fascinating and illustrated how much a community relies on a hospital as do first responders. He spoke on the importance of emergency preparedness and justifying it to highers-up and even mentioned that 70 staff members slept in the hospital during our recent snowstorm(s) since transportation may have been an issue and staff was needed. Hence, more food had to be supplied. 

There were many very interesting points that he made, sometimes in a graphical way, as when he discussed "Med-slides," which are used to move patients down stairs in case of a power failure with elevators not functioning.  He also noted that medicines, typically, arrive "just-in-time" on a daily basis so when there may be transport failures that could be an issue. He  spoke about a federal mandate that requires hospitals to be able to recover in 96 hours and maintain operations during that period.

We very much appreciate Mr. Rust sharing his wealth of expertise with us and thank Cooley Dickinson for all it does for healthcare in our community. His presentation and the discussions will keep us thinking and reflecting for a long time to come!