During the recent wildfires, people were worried about their safety as well as the safety of others. Many expressed concern when they heard that Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) was on the evacuation advisory list.
It is important our community knows SNMH is well prepared in the event of an evacuation. In an emergency, the hospital’s management team will activate its incident command team responsible for implementing the steps for evacuation.
The hospital has plans and protocols in place in compliance with government, local agencies and other hospitals that may serve as a location for evacuated patients. Drills help evaluate preparedness and make adjustments to the plans if needed.
Because attending physicians may not be available during an immediate evacuation, hospitalists (physicians that see patients in the hospital) and other hospital-based physicians coordinate with the receiving hospitals. Protocols are in place to assure the patient’s destination is compatible to his or her acuity and health care needs. Visual identifiers help with tracking and ‘to go bags’ are provided for patients including personal items, food, water, and medications. SNMH has its own ambulance service and a helipad that can be utilized for transport.
While clinicians and physicians are focused on patient safety and care, a team is also in place to secure the hospital itself. Hospital security and engineering focuses on lockdown and the safe evacuation of others on site. Utilities, including shutting down or controlling gas, water and electricity or activating generators are weighed against the potential impact on critical hospital equipment, systems, spoilage of food, pharmaceuticals, and more.
This team also coordinates with local public safety to set perimeters for staging sites that may need to be established. Teams also make sure personnel have access to supplies such as flashlights and batteries, portable monitors, small equipment, and more. Upon evacuation, a tagging system is used to reinforce an area has been fully evacuated. Communication teams ensure information is getting to hospital leadership, employees, physicians, local media and the community. A plan is launched to notify family members about the transfer location of their loved one.
Once the evacuation period is over, recovery and reopening begins. If the facility is intact, ensuring a safe environment with resources is key. Steps to secure government and regulatory approvals must occur. Reintroduction of patients and staff to the facility must be carefully organized.
As one can imagine, the preparation, training, drills and supply chain for a possible evacuation or emergency is essential, but can have a tremendous impact to the finances of a hospital. Hospitals are asked to do more and more today with less resources. That is why support by a community of its hospital, especially in a rural region, is so important.
Contributions are more important than ever. Donations are gratefully accepted at SNMHF, PO BOX 1810, Grass Valley, CA 95945, by calling 530-477-9700, or online at http://www.supportsierranevada.org. Working together we can assure health care needs are met for the community.