Humanitarian Health Action

Safe hospitals and health facilities

WHO/Victor Ariscain

Safe hospitals and other health facilities must remain operational in the aftermath of emergencies and disaster. Disruption of health services due to damage to hospitals and the lack of adequate preparedness to respond effectively are two major factors that can prevent people from receiving facility-based life-saving medical care and other essential health services.

The price we pay for the failure of hospitals or health facilities due to disasters is too high. In comparison, the cost of making hospitals safe from disasters is very low. Disaster damage to health systems is a human tragedy, results in huge economic losses, deals devastating blows to development goals, and shakes social confidence. Making hospitals and health facilities safe from disasters is an economic requirement, and also a social, moral and ethical necessity.

Special attention must be given to ensuring the physical and functional integrity of hospitals and health facilities in emergency conditions. This is about more than just protecting buildings. Health facilities are only truly safe from disasters when they are accessible and functioning, at maximum capacity, immediately after a hazard strikes.

Action to make hospitals and other health facilities safe and operational before, during and after disasters through the implementation of the Safe Hospitals Initiative must remain a priority for disaster risk reduction.

At the 3rd World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, WHO released the Comprehensive Safe Hospital Framework (LINK) that will guide the development and implementation of Safe Hospital programmes at national, subnational and facility levels. It is a guiding document developed for use by governments, health authorities, financial institutions and disaster management organizations.

WHO has also launched the Hospital Safety Index (2nd Edition) which is an assessment tool for giving a snapshot of the safety and preparedness of hospitals to remain operational in emergencies and disasters.

WHO encourages national health decision-makers to use this tool and to allocate adequate resources to those health facilities that are most at risk. The next steps will include the roll out of the Hospital Safety Index and the development of a training programme for evaluators to apply the tool and for countries to use the tool as a key element of a safe hospital programme.

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