9/11: A HEALTHCARE PROVIDER'S RESPONSE
CHICAGO, September 3, 2002Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers' (SVCMC) eight hospitals activated detailed disaster plans within minutes of the first plane crash into the World Trade Center. As the closest Level I trauma center to ground zero, St. Vincent's Manhattan immediately became a focus of emergency preparations. SVCMC treated more than 1,400 people as a direct result of the tragedy. St. Vincent's Manhattan alone treated 796 patients immediately after the attack, including 232 rescue workers.
Healthcare executive David J. Campbell, FACHE, president and CEO of SVCMC, writes about the experience he and his staff encountered. In times of crisis and need, healthcare executives ensure that hospitals and other healthcare organizations serve as "safety nets" in their communities by providing emergency and ongoing care, as well as accurate, timely information about public health threats.
Building on its experience following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other emergency situations, SVCMC already was well-positioned to deal with a significant crisis, according to Campbell. However, despite its experience and preparation, the staff at SVCMC was taught eight important lessons in the hours, days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks. According to Campbell, they are:
- Mass casualty events, especially those potentially involving nuclear, biological or chemical events, require regional planning for a regional response.
- The increased risk of terrorist attack requires adding comprehensive nuclear, biological and chemical protocols to hospital disaster plans.
- The ability to share emergency information between and among healthcare providers and government agencies must be improved.
- A regional system of collecting and sharing key information - before, during, and following an emergency - must be implemented.
- The important role of behavioral health services in disaster planning and response must be recognized and addressed during and after a mass casualty event.
- Disaster response must include a focus on the immediate and longer-term effect on patients and staff.
- Healthcare providers must develop plans that provide interaction with the public, especially in the areas of media relations, volunteer management, community health and preparedness education, and management of blood donors and of donated supplies and items.
- The critical role of hospitals in local and regional disaster response creates a major financial challenge for hospitals that must be recognized and addressed.
As evident from these learnings, local and regional governments look to healthcare executives and their organizations to help carry out federal, state and local programs and services designed to meet a multitude of public health needs. Since 9/11, the role of hospitals in disaster preparedness has clearly been expanded. "Disaster preparedness is a fundamental responsibility of all hospitals, but the events of September 11 and the continuing threat of terrorism have redefined what institutions must consider in serving as a resource for their communities," Campbell writes.
"It is the responsibility of healthcare executives to share their learning with others in the industry," said Campbell. "The American College of Healthcare Executives provides a forum to communicate knowledge and developments in the field to other healthcare executive leaders, helping to ensure that everyone receives the best possible care."
(Campbell D. 9/11: A Healthcare Provider's Response. Frontiers. 2002;19(1):3-13; available upon request)
information, contact Edelman, on behalf of the American College of Healthcare
Executives, at 312-240-3370.
To contact David J. Campbell, FACHE, call St. Vincent's Press Office at (212) 604-7972.