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Home E-Weekly October 25, 2016

Is Your Facility Disaster-Ready?

Published: October 24, 2016

Remember the breakdown in patient care that followed Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy? A new CMS rule is aimed at preventing a recurrence. As part of its Emergency Preparedness Rule, CMS insists that you prove that you're ready to deal with such natural and man-made disasters as hurricanes, pandemics and terrorist attacks. Hospitals, surgery centers and all other healthcare facilities have a little more than a year to meet new federal disaster preparedness requirements as a condition of participation in Medicare and Medicaid.

For example, you must have emergency plans and training for personnel — and run emergency drills twice a year to test these plans and programs, "so that all are better positioned to work together to protect health in the face of a disaster," says Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You must also have a communication plan in place to coordinate with your patients as appropriate, as well as with public health officials, emergency management officials, and other health care providers within the city, county and state, adds Dr. Lurie.

The rule lists 4 core elements to achieve compliance:

  • risk assessment and emergency planning
  • policies and procedures
  • communication plan
  • training and testing

There is a fifth requirement for emergency fuel and generator testing that applies only to hospitals. "But if a facility has an emergency power capability, it would certainly be better to exceed compliance requirements, regardless of your type of facility, then not," says Spence Byrum, CEO of HRS Consulting.

"The 4 elements articulated by CMS are not new and should not be considered overly onerous and or intrusive," says Mr. Byrum. "They are the very things for which we should be prepared to be able to adequately care for our patients and professionals should the worst happen. We have seen numerous examples of highly regarded, well-run institutions fail when it counted the most, with hurricanes, floods, Ebola patients, etc. The risks actually seem to be increasing, with discontent, radicalism and firearms increasingly in the news."

Visit here for sample plans, tools, templates, and training and exercise materials.

CMS issued this new rule to create a consistent foundation of emergency preparedness across the health care system, ensuring that providers across the spectrum are better positioned to respond to disasters and to ensure continuity of care for some of our most at-risk populations, says Dr. Lurie.

Under the final rule, ambulatory surgical centers will be required to meet most of the same proposed emergency preparedness requirements as those proposed for hospitals, with 2 exceptions: ASCs will not have to provide information regarding their occupancy, or provide for subsistence needs of their patients and staff.

Dan O'Connor

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