Disaster Preparedness

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Quake Breakdown: Hospitals Balk Over Sharing Disaster Preparedness Data

By Deborah Schoch, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

The Kaiser Permanente clinic in Granada Hills, CA was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. (Photo/NOAA)

The Kaiser Permanente clinic in Granada Hills, CA was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. (Photo/NOAA)

In early 2011, federal and state officials asked 200 Southern California hospitals to provide information about their ability to survive a catastrophic earthquake along the southern San Andreas Fault.

Among other things, the hospitals were asked how many back-up generators they had on hand, what fuel they use and whether their water tanks could survive a major quake long predicted for one of the nation’s most dangerous faults.

The survey was aimed at speeding post-earthquake recovery efforts, such as rushing backup power generators, fuel and water to damaged hospitals struggling to care for patients. The concept was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which would coordinate the federal response to such a disaster.

“These hospitals are getting hundreds of millions –- maybe billions –- of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid every year, and they can’t fill out a questionnaire?”
Sounds like a great idea, right?

But nearly two years later, almost half of the hospitals still have not responded, leaving some disaster officials frustrated over their inability to help the hospitals plan for the worst.

The unsuccessful effort casts a harsh light on the potential pitfalls of forging public-private partnerships among health care facilities to plan for earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. Continue reading