Safe Health Facilities and Preparedness for Mass Casualties

Sunday, 19 February 2012 marked the second time that the WHO Kobe Centre (WKC) and the University of Hyogo, Research Institute of Nursing Care for People and Community (RINCPC) organized a public health event at Akashi City. The first time was for a WKC Forum entitled “Strengthening disaster resilience: individual, group and community” held on 20 November 2011.

WHO/Y. Takada

Attended by 80 participants from Bangladesh, Israel, Japan, Philippines, Thailand and USA, the University of Hyogo Seminar entitled “How do we make our hospital prepared for any disaster?” was moderated by Dr Aiko Yamamoto, Executive Director and Professor, RINCPC. The President of the University of Hyogo, Dr Masayoshi Kiyohara, welcomed the participants. He congratulated the University of Hyogo, College of Nursing, for being one of five nursing schools in Japan leading curriculum development on disaster nursing with an international perspective; and wished early on for a successful seminar.

Mr Alex Ross, Director, WKC, delivered WHO’s opening address. He remarked that the RINCPC is a very special place. As a WHO Collaborating Centre (WCC) for Nursing in Disasters and Health Emergency Management, it is the only such collaborating centre in the world on this topic, out of 800 collaborating centres worldwide, all of which are based in universities or in government institutions. Mr Ross expressed his pride of WKC’s association with the University of Hyogo and its WCC highlighting the role being played by nurses as first responders during emergencies – whether clinic-based or community-based.

The seminar’s first speaker was Dr Arturo Pesigan, Technical Officer, WKC, who spoke on “Making Hospitals Safer in Emergencies and Disasters”. Dr Pesigan shared images of a hospital in the Philippines before and after flash floods in 2009 due to Typhoon Ketsana which also devastated health facilities in Lao PDR and Viet Nam. He explained the historical background contributed by lessons learned from the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake and other disasters, the Hyogo Framework for Action, the World Disaster Reduction Campaign on safe schools and hospitals and the current work on disaster risk reduction in health facilities. He mentioned about a case study (integrating structural, non-structural and functional elements) on Kobe Red Cross Hospital and Kobe University Hospital conducted by WKC in 2007. He reiterated that “supporting hospitals and health facilities to make them safe in health emergencies involves everyone”.

Dr Hanna Admi, Director of Nursing, Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, Israel tackled “Mass Casualty Preparedness” in the second presentation. Dr Admi contextualized her inputs by showing at first video footages of the world’s most recent emergencies and disasters that struck Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, Japan and the Philippines. She appreciated the spirit of resilience of the predominantly Japanese audience with reference to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011. She narrated her first hand experience when Rambam Hospital became a “hospital under fire” in 2006.

Dr Admi cited the required preparedness of both pre-hospital and hospital settings. She showed several short films (some real and some simulated) stressing the need to prepare for any mass casualty incident originating from biological, toxicological, natural and/or radiological hazards. She raised awareness on the need to distinguish the difference and application of guidelines from standing orders and protocols and from checklists. At the end of her presentation, she hoped that the participants learned and would be better prepared to face and manage mass casualty incidents.

The University of Hyogo seminar had an open forum after the two presentations. Questions asked revolved around the seemingly limited role of nurses during emergencies and disasters. Both speakers believed though that nurses can and are playing their important roles as in fact some nurses are acting as hospital emergency management coordinators. Yet the situation in some settings can still be improved and multiple approaches can be used for change into an envisioned set-up.

In closing, Dr Yamamoto expressed her gratitude to all participants for their presence and enthusiasm. In responding to the question posed by the seminar: “How do we make our hospital prepared for any disaster?”, she said that a truly caring humanity would ensure preparedness.