The Federal Government has proposed new emergency preparedness requirements for more than 68,000 hospitals and nursing homes that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. Citing the devastating effects of recent natural and man-made disasters (September 11, anthrax attacks, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy), the Office of the Federal Register has concluded that many healthcare systems are not prepared enough for another. And the fact is: more natural disasters will strike.
While everyone wants to be prepared and protected from floods, earthquakes and others hazards, safety comes at a cost. If this proposal is passed, hospitals and nursing homes would be required (among many other things) to test backup generators for four hours at full-load at least once a year rather than once every three years. This exercise will cost each institution thousands of dollars in fuel and labor costs. The question is: will more testing improve safety? Pulitzer Prize-winning physician and journalist Dr. Sheri Fink, M.D., who wrote Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital about the five day ordeal of evacuating New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital after Hurricane Katrina, says yes, and it would be a crime not to prepare.