Posted in Issue 93 October 2003 Member Countries
In July, more than 100 professionals met in El Salvador at the international meeting “Hospitals in Disasters: Handle with Care.” The bulk of the meeting was dedicated to working groups that studied and made recommendations on three major topic areas:
- Hospital disaster mitigation and the need to revise and enforce existing regulations concerning the design and construction of health facilities, with the ultimate goal of protecting the lives of patients, staff and other occupants and ensuring that these facilities can continue to function during and after a disaster. This working group discussed and modified the Guidelines for Vulnerability Reduction in the Design of New Health Facilities, a comprehensive publication for investors and hospital managers. A shorter summary of this document, prepared for decision makers, is also available.
- Evacuating a hospital may become necessary at some point. But unnecessary evacuation can lead to serious problems, and the group analyzed the consequences of evacuation in terms of politics, social aspects, administration, public assistance, labor, etc. The guide Should Hospitals be Evacuated? was endorsed and the group formulated additional recommendations, including: share the decision to evacuate, to the extent possible, with health or government authorities responsible for the affected area and keep in mind that the press will play an important role in generating or dispelling fears about hospital evacuations.
- If hospitals must be evacuated, many view mobile field hospitals as a way to provide immediate medical care to victims. Some political authorities in disaster-affected countries have accepted the donation of self-contained field hospitals as a temporary substitute for health facilities damaged by disasters. However, often these foreign hospitals have not met the expectations, generating frustration and disappointment for all parties concerned: recipients and donor countries, the medical staff and the patients. The WHO/PAHO Guidelines for the Use of Field Hospitals in the Aftermath of Sudden Impact Disasters, prepared for donor and recipient countries, were revised by the group and have now been published. An accompanying brochure is also available.