05 August 2011

Lawsuit Is A Wake-Up Call After Katrina

This case is going to set some new standards and it is too early to know which way the standards will settle. Two law professors are arguing for healthcare organizations to be spared from having to "prepare endlessly for every contingency." While I can agree with part of this, I do feel that healthcare organizations should not be exempt from negligence and carelessness.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about what actually happened to patients at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans and we will probably never know the full truth.  Some potential charges were dropped and will be buried in the archives of the legal system.

The other question on my mind is if healthcare organizations are even interested in being prepared for emergencies. Most have the emergency preparedness papers in a file for satisfaction of various inspection agencies, but do all the employees even know the basic steps and even the backup plans? Highly doubtful! How often do they have a drill for preparedness? Most will do this during the daytime maybe once a year to minimize the cost, but those on the evening and night shifts may have been told that there is one, but don't know anything about the procedures and plan of action.

Most healthcare organizations have only one or two types of emergencies to be concerned about from the weather. Most are build out of the flood plains so what happened during hurricane Katrina is a rare occurrence except in the hurricane prone areas. The rest need to worry about tornadoes and winter storms from the weather. They all must be concerned about fires and terrorism.

So the question becomes, should they be allowed a blanket exemption from lawsuits, or will lawsuits still be allowed for negligence? I would not be happy with a blanket exemption. If this even comes close to reality, I would urge everyone to require that healthcare organizations be required to undergo state monitored, unannounced emergency preparedness drills at least twice a year and preferably on a quarterly basis. This would insure new employees are prepared and that they happen.

This would also require that state agencies be prepared to conduct the drills at varying times and not just for one shift. Most state inspections that exist now happen between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. This often leaves the night shift exempt and without training for any type of emergency.

Read the article here and then decide what you think, be prepared to take a stand or bury your head in the sand. Emergencies happen and if you happen to be in a healthcare facility during an emergency, what would you want?

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