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It is critical that a hospital remain a hospital during a crisis. A real hospital, not a warehouse, or a school gymnasium, or any other vacant space that converts to a general shelter. For better or worse, people see the hospital as a general community resource.  We tacitly encourage this thinking, after all, think of the many things we provide to the community.  We have educational programs on campus, we host AA meetings, we hold health fairs, we are often a gathering place for community events.  It is a deep seated feeling.  Perhaps it goes back to the time in history when hospitals did function as refuges of last resort, not really a place to be healed or to have a life saving intervention, but a place to be made as comfortable as possible during your last days and hours.

It is very difficult to then to roll up the welcome mat, and tell people that a hospital is not a shelter.  The community must understand, it is the only place you can go for emergency and acute medical care.  That mission must be preserved.  Yes, there are exceptions and I have made them myself.  In the eye of one particularly bad storm, we heard banging on the Emergency Room doors, and when we opened them we saw a dozen Guatemalan migrant workers looking very bedraggled.  It had to be bad out there, as these folks were a tough, stoic bunch.  Of course, we let them in.

Still….when you are battening down the hatches the last thing you need is a bunch of able bodied citizens, milling around the hospital, consuming all of the food in the cafeteria (you will need that later), sitting around the lobby, and generally getting the way of the provision of acute patient care.  As much as it may go against the grain of being a community, non-profit, faith-based, caring healthcare organization, you have to do this one important thing……show them the door and make sure they leave.

Even better, as a savvy reader of this blog, don’t let them inside in the first place.  Develop security measures as part of your hurricane plan that begin a lock down well in advance.  We are piloting a system called FastPass in several of our hospitals, that creates a security checkpoint and quick identification process that allows us to identify each visitor.  We will use it to raise the security level in advance of the storm to limit access of the general public. Even more importantly, and even before you get to the FastPass checkpoint, you can control and limit vehicular access to your campus.  If you do not, you may find yourself housing a sizable collection of big boys’ toys.

Most of us have very large and very expensive parking structures that house thousands of cars.   Little did we know that these garages shine like a beacon to owners of valuable things on wheels!  We once had a gridlock traffic jam of boats on trailers, jet skis on trailers, and collector’s cars that would put the Barrett-Jackson auction to shame.   Almost anything that would fit through the entrance was in there.  I am talking about a 1963 Red Corvette split window coupe, a 1966 Shelby Cobra, two Ferraris, a glow in the dark green Lamborghini (bienvenido a Miami), and a couple of mid seventies Cadillac convertibles that looked brand new.  Even half a dozen flats boats, the specialty boat of choice for sneaking up on bonefish.

But the real big numbers come from people who simply want to have their regular car high and dry and out of the way of falling limbs and flying debris.  What does this have to do with patient care?  Nothing!  Unless these cars were driven by hospital staff coming to work….all together now…show them the door!!!  Controlling your environment, your campus, your resources and importantly the patient care workspace is key to protecting the core mission of every hospital, providing acute and emergent patient care.  Those people you turn away will appreciate it later, when their hospital is there for them.

“What has happened down here is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water on the streets of Evangeline”

Randy Newman — Louisiana 1927

Originally posted on June 2009

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This entry was posted on Sunday, July 17th, 2011 at 11:45 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.