California is the first state in the nation to provide comprehensive guidelines for health care during a catastrophic emergency
California state officials today released the nation’s first comprehensive guidance for how hospitals, other health care facilities and local health departments should respond to a sudden increased demand for services following a catastrophic event. This guidance, Standards and Guidelines for Healthcare Surge during Emergencies, is part of the Governor’s ongoing commitment to improving California’s ability to care for its residents in a catastrophe.
“During a major disaster, the heath care system will look very different from what we are accustomed to,” said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health. “These guidelines will help communities as they plan how to sustain a functioning health care system following a catastrophic event such as a severe earthquake, bioterrorism attack or outbreak of pandemic influenza.“
The development of the Standards and Guidelines involved an unprecedented collaboration of representatives from a diverse group of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, medical ethicists, lawyers, state government agencies and other interested parties from across California. The Standards and Guidelines address a variety of challenging issues such as:
• Ethical allocation of limited medical resources -- During a major disaster, the health care community will have to switch from individual care to population-based care. Doctors, nurses, medical ethicists and other members of the health care community helped develop the guidelines on acceptable criteria for resource allocation among patients as well as inappropriate criteria.
• Standards for the delivery of medical care outside of normal settings, including hallways, parking lots, gymnasiums or other alternate care sites.
• Ensuring effective use of medical professionals and volunteers to maximize life-saving efforts during a catastrophic event.
According to the Standards and Guidelines, after the declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor, certain regulations may be waived depending on the nature of the emergency to ensure consistent patient care.
Left unresolved, these types of issues could be addressed haphazardly during an emergency, potentially weakening the emergency response effort and affecting patient care. By developing standards and guidelines that are well understood by the health care community and emergency responders, California is better prepared to handle an emergency that requires rapid response to surges on the health care system.
In the coming months, additional guidelines will be released for community clinics, long-term care facilities and licensed health care professionals.
Further information about the Standards and Guidelines for Healthcare Surge during Emergencies, including a downloadable version of the manuals, is available at www.cdph.ca.gov
Funding for this project was included in the 2006-07 Budget Act.