Hospital Teamwork Credited for Weathering Fierce Storm in North Carolina

A healthcare professional’s natural disaster survival guide.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Zirkman, Chief Medical Advisor for CarolinaEast Medical Center, spent the last week preparing for and weathering the wrath of Hurricane Florence, which, at the time, had left at least five dead, necessitated dozens of rescues, and cut power to a million people. Here he offers best practices for healthcare professionals in similarly dire straits.

Fortunately, natural disasters are rare occurrences, but when they do happen, a hospital must be prepared for conditions that will likely stress systems well beyond what they are designed to manage.

The keys to surviving an event such as hurricane are advanced preparation and real- time responsiveness. Hurricanes are seasonal visitors to the eastern U.S. coast, and CarolinaEast Medical Center has experienced enough of them over the years to understand the importance of preparedness. In preparation for Hurricane Florence, we followed four basic steps designed to offer the best chance of handling any contingency or emergency.

Step one: Advanced preparation

Several days prior to the storm, materials and supplies were stockpiled to provide at least seven days of standalone hospital operations. This included food, pharmacy items, water, linens, and maintenance equipment (e.g. sand bags, pumps, spare generator parts, etc.). The hospital’s backup generators were topped off with fuel to ensure 7-10 days of continuous power.

Step Two: Securing the Facility/Physical Plant

Machinery and critical systems were inspected, tuned, and secured against weather-related exposure and damage. This included building makeshift dams around vulnerable areas, particularly the generators and the fuel tanks.

Step Three: Onsite Staffing

One day before the storm, the hospital bunked up to three shifts of staff: nursing, support services, and maintenance. Essential personnel were requested to stay overnight, while non-essential personnel were asked to volunteer to provide support services (e.g. kitchen, house cleaning, patient transport, etc.). Bedding, coffee, snacks, and movies were planned and provided for. Physician staffing in-house was done on a volunteer basis, with arrangements made for sleep and showering facilities. The hospitalists voluntarily provided two rotating shifts to cover admissions and follow-up care 24 hours round the clock.

Step Four: Incident Command

Staffed by key administrative, clinical, and physical plant personnel, this key group responds to any challenge, unexpected event, or emergency condition. The group is kept small, with one person typically overseeing a particular service or facility. The group meets face-to-face three times each day and provides a structured platform for overseeing the entire hospital operations, including the following:

  • Monitoring for changing conditions
  • Reacting to changes in conditions
  • Issuing updates
  • Resolving new issues as they arise

For a system as complex as an acute-care hospital, managing a catastrophic event such as Hurricane Florence can never be left to chance, nor can there be attempts to figure things out on the fly. The key to ensuring the safety of patients and staff requires thorough attention to detail and planning well in advance of the event.

We are very fortunate at CarolinaEast Medical Center to have experienced, skilled leadership members who have developed and promoted a culture of excellence, as well as that desire to always go that extra step to ensure that our patients receive the best care. Hurricane Florence has been one of the most severe tests the hospital has ever faced, but those efforts to prepare for the worst of conditions is paying major dividends as we weather the storm.

PHOTO: Members of the CarolinaEast Medical Center Incident Command team are seen here during a midafternoon status update on Saturday, Sept. 15. Members of the team had been at the hospital for the past three days responding to the impact of Hurricane Florence which had made landfall the previous day. | PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Zirkman, MD


Comment on this article

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Stories

Remain Compliant – and Take the Money

Remain Compliant – and Take the Money

Our first topic today is local coverage determinations (LCDs) and variation. I have written in the past about national and local coverage determinations, and I

Read More

Leave a Reply

Please log in to your account to comment on this article.

Featured Webcasts

Leveraging the CERT: A New Coding and Billing Risk Assessment Plan

Leveraging the CERT: A New Coding and Billing Risk Assessment Plan

Frank Cohen shows you how to leverage the Comprehensive Error Rate Testing Program (CERT) to create your own internal coding and billing risk assessment plan, including granular identification of risk areas and prioritizing audit tasks and functions resulting in decreased claim submission errors, reduced risk of audit-related damages, and a smoother, more efficient reimbursement process from Medicare.

April 9, 2024
2024 Observation Services Billing: How to Get It Right

2024 Observation Services Billing: How to Get It Right

Dr. Ronald Hirsch presents an essential “A to Z” review of Observation, including proper use for Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and commercial payers. He addresses the correct use of Observation in medical patients and surgical patients, and how to deal with the billing of unnecessary Observation services, professional fee billing, and more.

March 21, 2024
Top-10 Compliance Risk Areas for Hospitals & Physicians in 2024: Get Ahead of Federal Audit Targets

Top-10 Compliance Risk Areas for Hospitals & Physicians in 2024: Get Ahead of Federal Audit Targets

Explore the top-10 federal audit targets for 2024 in our webcast, “Top-10 Compliance Risk Areas for Hospitals & Physicians in 2024: Get Ahead of Federal Audit Targets,” featuring Certified Compliance Officer Michael G. Calahan, PA, MBA. Gain insights and best practices to proactively address risks, enhance compliance, and ensure financial well-being for your healthcare facility or practice. Join us for a comprehensive guide to successfully navigating the federal audit landscape.

February 22, 2024
Mastering Healthcare Refunds: Navigating Compliance with Confidence

Mastering Healthcare Refunds: Navigating Compliance with Confidence

Join healthcare attorney David Glaser, as he debunks refund myths, clarifies compliance essentials, and empowers healthcare professionals to safeguard facility finances. Uncover the secrets behind when to refund and why it matters. Don’t miss this crucial insight into strategic refund management.

February 29, 2024
2024 SDoH Update: Navigating Coding and Screening Assessment

2024 SDoH Update: Navigating Coding and Screening Assessment

Dive deep into the world of Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) coding with our comprehensive webcast. Explore the latest OPPS codes for 2024, understand SDoH assessments, and discover effective strategies for integrating coding seamlessly into healthcare practices. Gain invaluable insights and practical knowledge to navigate the complexities of SDoH coding confidently. Join us to unlock the potential of coding in promoting holistic patient care.

May 22, 2024
2024 ICD-10-CM/PCS Coding Clinic Update Webcast Series

2024 ICD-10-CM/PCS Coding Clinic Update Webcast Series

HIM coding expert, Kay Piper, RHIA, CDIP, CCS, reviews the guidance and updates coders and CDIs on important information in each of the AHA’s 2024 ICD-10-CM/PCS Quarterly Coding Clinics in easy-to-access on-demand webcasts, available shortly after each official publication.

April 15, 2024

Trending News

Happy National Doctor’s Day! Learn how to get a complimentary webcast on ‘Decoding Social Admissions’ as a token of our heartfelt appreciation! Click here to learn more →

Happy World Health Day! Our exclusive webcast, ‘2024 SDoH Update: Navigating Coding and Screening Assessment,’  is just $99 for a limited time! Use code WorldHealth24 at checkout.

SPRING INTO SAVINGS! Get 21% OFF during our exclusive two-day sale starting 3/21/2024. Use SPRING24 at checkout to claim this offer. Click here to learn more →