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Effective healthcare system response to consecutive Florida hurricanes

Laura L. Banks, DVM, MPH, Mark B. Shah, MD, Michael E. Richards, MD, MPA

Abstract


In September 2004, two consecutive hurricanes (Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne) made landfall in Stuart, FL, and created healthcare needs that overtaxed the capacity of the local healthcare system. To determine the character and structure of the response to these hurricanes, researchers from the University of New Mexico, Center for Disaster Medicine conducted both a structured written survey of employees and a guided group interview with healthcare system management. The written survey queried staff on topics related to their ability and willingness to get to work and stay at work during the storms. The roundtable interview with leadership resulted in analysis of the preexisting Emergency Operations Plan and its use during the storms, including preparation and execution of plans for staffing, facility operation, communication, community resource utilization, and recovery. In addition, the interaction with federally deployed Disaster Medical Assistance Teams was documented and reviewed. In general, prior planning on the part of the healthcare system in Stuart, FL, resulted in a successful response to both hurricanes. Employees were willing and able to provide the necessary care for patients during the hurricanes, overcoming many physical and emotional barriers that arose during the month-long response. These barriers included concern for the safety of family and pets, inoperable or insufficient communication methods, and damage to employees’ personal property and homes. Recommendations for healthcare system preparedness and response were formulated by the researchers based on this healthcare system’s successful response to back-to-back hurricanes, including recommendations for interacting with disaster medical resources.

Keywords


DMAT, disaster medicine, hurricane, preparedness

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2007.0038

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