“Safe hospitals” on the global political agenda

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The 2008–2009 Global Campaign for Disaster Reduction, dedicated to the theme of safe hospitals, has allowed us to build new and stronger partnerships, include new players, and to generate greater political and technical awareness about this important challenge. PAHO/WHO will continue to work with governments and other partners to advance the safe hospitals issue and to ensure that it is on risk reduction agendas of governments, financial institutions, the private sector, international organizations, and agencies within and outside the health sector.

The Global Platform for Disaster Reduction, held in Geneva in June 2009, proposes that national assessments of all existing health facilities should be carried out by 2011, and that by the year 2015 specific plans for safe hospitals should be developed and implemented in all countries exposed to high risks.

Tools developed

  • Hospital Safety Index: a reliable, low-cost, rapid assessment tool that measures the level of safety in health facilities. It takes into account hazards and structural, nonstructural, and functional elements.
  • Wind Hazard Maps for the Caribbean: these updated maps help engineers, builders, building owners, and authorities to specify the safety level of new construction
  • Virtual Journey through a Safe Hospital: a multimedia training program that contains all the elements we must understand about the real workings of a hospital and the concept of safe hospitals.
  • Flip chart on hospital safety: an educational tool tailored for use at the community level which includes key messages on the importance of safe hospitals.

At a meeting in London, in October 2009, WHO and the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction launched the Thematic Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction for Health and committed to working with local, national, and international partners to improve health and reduce risk from emergencies and disasters. The new global campaign for disaster reduction, dedicated to urban risk, provides the opportunity to continue the work of ensuring that safe hospitals are in every city on the planet.

The countries of the Region of the Americas have taken important steps in capacity building, implementing new instruments, and establishing political commitments to advance the strategy of hospitals safe from disasters.

The Hospital Safety Index has proved to be easy and quick to use. It has enabled major advances in assessing safety, which is the first step in establishing criteria and priorities for actions needed to strengthen safety measures. Support given to the safe hospitals initiative by ECHO (the Humanitarian Department of the European Commission, through their DIPECHO plans) and other donors such as OFDA/USAID and the Canadian International Development Agency has been critical. This support has assisted in promoting use of the Index and in developing pilot mitigation activities. Above all, it has helped to build skills and strengthen the policy actions and decisions which will allow for significant advances in the medium and long term.

The Directing Council of PAHO/WHO, which is made up of health ministers from the Region, has renewed and strengthened its involvement in the safe hospitals initiative and is in the process of forming a hospital safety committee to ensure compliance with commitments. Despite many advances, the goal of safe hospitals is an ongoing process that requires dedication from all sectors. The most significant achievements in the Region are outlined in the following graphic.

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