What can you do?
Everyone has a role to play
We can all help to support better health care in emergencies. Wide support for safer hospitals is needed from all within the community. Partnerships between different sectors (including emergency services) are vital to ensure that health facilities receive priority attention when an emergency occurs – for instance, by safeguarding the water supply or securing access to hospitals and other health centres.
Many do this already. Some volunteer in health facilities. Professional bodies encourage innovations and designs that make health facilities safer and more functional in emergencies.
But more can be done. Urgent action needs to be taken if we are to prevent unnecessary death and suffering when our hospitals fail in emergencies. Here is what you can do to start making hospitals safe in emergencies.
- Champion the need to make health facilities safe and functional in emergencies for health, social and economic reasons
- Integrate “Safe Hospitals” programmes and health-risk reduction into national platforms for disaster-risk reduction
- Develop national multisectoral programmes and policies to make health facilities safe in emergencies. Countries that have established a “Safe Hospitals” programme will have taken an important step towards protecting their health facilities and providing health care when most needed
- Monitor and report on implementation of the "Safe Hospitals" programme to ensure success
- Invest only in health facility projects that ensure safe location, design, construction, provision of care and emergency preparedness
- Integrate health facility safety and emergency preparedness into procedures for the licensing and accreditation of health facilities
- Draft, pass and enforce legislation that protects hospitals – including hospital-specific building codes
- Carry out safety assessments of existing health facilities and establish a schedule for retrofitting the most critical and vulnerable ones
- Support measures to keep health staff safe and secure during emergencies
- Undertake field missions during emergencies to gather information and learn lessons.
Financial institutions and donors should
- Integrate safety and emergency preparedness measures into all plans and proposals for health construction projects, including hazard and vulnerability assessments and safety assessments for retrofitting projects
- Work with governments to enforce land-use planning and building codes
- Promote research and studies on economic assessment of making health facilities safe in emergencies
- Integrate safe health facilities and emergency preparedness into disaster and health development portfolios.
Universities, schools and professional bodies should
- Develop modules or courses that place safety and emergency preparedness of health facilities on university and professional curricula
- Encourage innovative, cost-effective and energy-efficient designs for the safety of health facilities
- Encourage an integrated approach to basic emergency and surgical care training modules in teaching and training curricula for health providers at all levels of care
- Research and evaluate the impact of disasters on facilities with a view to improving performance and personnel practice in emergencies.
Health institutions and the health workforce should
- Enquire about the safety of your own health facility
- Develop an emergency risk management programme for the health facility
- Promote the safety and security of health workers in emergencies on a personal, institutional and national level. Implement low-cost solutions for isolation of cases of infectious disease and for prevention of disease transmission within the health care facility
- Seek opportunities for training and exercising to update skills and knowledge
- Develop an emergency response plan for your health facility and integrate it into health emergency and community emergency plans
- Test and update national, local and health facility emergency response plans
- Involve all sectors of the health workforce (administration, nurses, doctors, staff association, etc) in the planning phase
- Make the plan known to all and update periodically.
International and regional agencies, NGOs and media should
- Identify your agency's or NGO's specialized niche as it relates to health facilities in emergencies and share your knowledge and expertise to make health facilities safe and able to function in emergencies
- Build on existing interagency mechanisms and strategic partnerships to strengthen health facility preparedness
- Recognize the media's vital role in raising public awareness of the importance of emergency preparedness. Reporting on needs, gaps and best practice can trigger public interest and prompt higher-level discussion on and implementation of measures to make health facilities safer.