Ministries of health throughout the Americas called for new efforts to make hospitals disaster-safe, so that they can continue to provide health services when they are urgently needed.
During their meeting at Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) headquarters in Washington, D.C., health leaders endorsed a new regional Plan of Action that includes planning, investment, and inspection systems to ensure that hospitals and other new health facilities are built in accordance with disaster-resilience standards and that the oldest facilities are modernized so that they can keep operating during emergencies.
According to the Directing Council, reaching the goal of disaster-safe hospitals by 2015 requires the preparation of a regional plan of action with extensive participation by PAHO/WHO Member States.
The Council asked PAHO/WHO to support and promote action to achieve the goals laid out in the new Plan of Action; develop technical instruments and guidelines to facilitate the monitoring of progress in the implementation of the plan; and promote the strengthening of partnerships to mobilize human and financial resources and the technology required to improve the safety of health services in disasters.
In several countries, responsibility for achieving the goal of safe hospitals rests with or is shared by national multisectoral disaster-reduction bodies, involving other sectors inside and outside the health sector. However, the participation of other sectors is still very limited in the majority of countries, making it difficult to include the Safe Hospitals Initiative in specific medium- and long-term actions. The creation of safe hospitals is complicated by competition with other priorities such as rising needs in other areas of public health, limited budgetary resources, high rates of staff turnover, and lack of human resources in health. Moreover, hospital safety is not considered a social value.
On a positive note, technical knowledge and policy decisions indicating an interest in working toward safe hospitals are already in place. The complete plan of action can be viewed here.