Features by Jack O. Bovender Jr., FACHE, and Bill Carey; and Havidán Rodríguez, PhD, and Benigno Aguirre, PhD
One year after the Gulf Coast hurricanes that caused what many have called the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, it seems appropriate to look at how the healthcare system responded—what went right and what went wrong. Although every disaster is different, basic lessons can be gleaned from each such event that can help in our preparation and response the next time. This country has experienced a number of major disasters over the past five years—one a result of terrorist attacks, the others from natural phenomenons. More threats will surely come.
In this issue of Frontiers, we focus on Hurricane Katrina and its impact on New Orleans. Was the healthcare system as prepared as it could have been? How did the hospitals respond? What have we learned, and what can we do differently in the future? In the first article, “A Week We Don’t Want to Forget: Lessons Learned from Tulane,” Jack Bovender, CEO of HCA, Inc., and Bill Carey, author of Leave No One Behind: Hurricane Katrina and the Rescue of Tulane Hospital, relate the experience of one hospital—Tulane—and how the hospital and the HCA system handled the event and the lessons learned from it. Bovender and Carey focus mainly on preparation, communication, airlift and transfer, and recovery. This is not only a story of the heart and soul of what healthcare is all about, but one of the courage and compassion of everyone involved. Their account of what Tulane was able to do and the lessons HCA learned should help us all in the future.
In the second article, “Hurricane Katrina and the Healthcare Infrastructure: A Focus on Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Resiliency,” professors Havidán Rodríguez and Benigno Aguirre from the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware take a look at the impact of this devastating event on the healthcare system and its infrastructure and talk about how hospitals prepared for, responded to, and coped with the disaster. The authors provide an overview of the current situation and the healthcare crisis confronting the hospitals and communities in the affected regions. They stress the impending need to develop disaster-resilient medical and health systems to prepare for future disasters, and share some recommended initiatives aimed at doing that.
The three commentaries explore the issues raised in the above articles.The underlying message in this issue is that our healthcare system needs to be made disaster resilient. Catastrophes of all shapes, sizes, and magnitudes will continue to happen, and we as healthcare providers are morally obligated to be prepared. No matter how “ready” we think we are, there is always room for improvement, always one thing we may not have thought about. That is why it is important to share our knowledge and experience, and that is precisely what the authors in this issue have done.
Audrey Kaufman, Editor