A Message from Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, Director of the Pan American Health Organization
"Join Us to Make Hospitals Safe from Disasters"
Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis-when disaster strikes, our immediate concern is to save lives, help the injured, and restore the well-being of affected communities. We cannot accomplish this without one essential lifeline: our hospitals. Hospitals should never be allowed to become disaster victims themselves.
Hospitals are home not only to doctors, nurses, hospital beds and medical equipment but also to laboratories, pharmacies, and blood banks-all critical components of the public health system. When a hospital is destroyed or crippled in a disaster, these essential services are lost at the moment they are most needed. While we cannot prevent natural hazards, we can and must make sure that our hospitals stand up to disasters, continuing to meet immediate health needs and providing critical longer-term care.
What do we mean by a safe hospital?
A safe hospital is one whose structure remains intact during and after disasters, whose health workers are trained to respond in an emergency, and whose contingency plans enable it to keep functioning even after a disaster. Making hospitals safe is not just the responsibility of health authorities or engineers; it requires the involvement of many disciplines and the dedication of individuals and institutions at all levels, including governmental and nongovernmental organizations, universities, the private sector, and the public at large. We all have a role to play in making hospitals safe.
On this World Health Day, we are calling on decision-makers from every country of our Region to commit to the creation of national safe hospitals programs and to mobilize the broadest possible support for making hospitals and health facilities safe from disasters.
You can help us spread the 2009 World Health Day message: When disaster strikes, safe hospitals save lives. Join with others to make sure our hospitals are there when we need them most!