Until the atomic bomb came along, the Plague that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages and the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 were the most lethal weapons of mass destruction the world had ever seen. Those same diseases, and many others, are still a major threat to the future of mankind. Today, fortunately, much more is known about them - but prevention is still the best medicine.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are marvelous at handling emergencies, healing the sick, and performing a host of minor and major daily miracles. But who heals the healer? In other words, what happens when the hospital itself is suffering from an explosion, an out-of-control fire, or any other type of mass-casualty incident? Today, the answer starts outside the facility with an emergency management program led and monitored by a corporate incident management team.
The "incident," "disaster," or whatever can be relatively small, but the lessons learned may be very large indeed. That sad fact of life (but sometimes death) was drummed home vividly to those participating in a two-hour UNH campus ministry social that ended several weeks later with a potentially deadly case of gastrointestinal anthrax - the first ever recorded in the United States.
Official government prose is formal, dignified, and enriched with copious quantities of federalese - accurate usually, but also bland and flavorless. Which is why the CDC is reaching out to touch citizens of the 24/7 generation through the use of blogs, tweets, Facebook and other social media that are much more likely to get their attention.
"Is the Grant a Good Fix?" "What Will It Take to Implement the Grant?" "What Are the Estimated Continuing Costs of the Project?" Those not-so-easy questions should be asked long before a grant is requested. The answers may at times be discouraging, but not nearly as discouraging as losing a grant because the questions were not asked - and answered - in advance, and in considerable detail.
Rapid advances in telemedicine and in the computerization of medical records are now the norm, but are made extremely complicated by - well, by other rapid advances in telemedicine and in the computerization of medical records. Additional breakthroughs are still possible, and highly desired. The pace of progress should perhaps be just a wee bit slower, it says here, but much better managed.
Many major disasters start without warning, continue for periods ranging from mere seconds to weeks or months, and leave behind a chaotic mass of useless rubble and ruined lives. The work of public health agencies necessarily starts well before the first tremor, continues through the entire response/recovery/resilience process, and ends - well, never.
True or not, the fact that "It never happened here" frequently morphs into a belief that "It can't happen here." That is an extremely dangerous assumption, as the "45-second" tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, proved once again. The resilient citizens of that gallant city are digging out, though, and recognize that the real key to survival is to "Plan for the worst, but hope for the best."
The twin goals - total security, and immediate accessibility - prescribed for the perfect medical antidote program are not only mutually exclusive but also theoretically impossible to achieve. Almost. But there are some effective compromise measures that can bridge the differences, lower the loss rate, and significantly improve on-scene operational needs at the same time.
Thanks (sort of) to the ravages caused by Hurricane Katrina, and a number of other disasters - including terrorist attacks - there is a growing awareness that U.S. healthcare facilities must focus much greater attention on building, and/or improving, their individual and collective "surge" capabilities. Here is a brief report on what has been accomplished so far, and some helpful recommendations to both improve and accelerate the process.