If you have not been in Sandy or a similar event, or if you have been and you’re responding to your subclinical case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by convincing yourself that you’re bored with the topic, then, of course, you’re sick to death of articles about how some frail, elderly people are still stuck in dark, cold, powerless highrises because of Sandy.
Maybe you can muster a little more outrage about The New York Times story about the nursing home that allegedly failed to stock up on emergency food, let its emergency generators go out, then lost track of some of the patients when it finally dumped them in emergency shelters.
I honestly thought I was posting some noble but not necessarily very relevant filler in September when I put up Will LTC Providers Keep Your Clients Safe from Disasters?, an article about a government report on how U.S. nursing homes and the rest of the U.S. acute health care and long-term care (LTC) systems might not be very well prepared for big natural disasters.
Then Sandy hit and made some nursing homes look pretty terrible.
Sandy also has affected New York City hospitals — hospitals that should, in theory, have been hardened by what they went through after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and by years of World War III-oriented disaster planning — so badly that Lower Manhattan still has only one fully functional general acute care hospital.
For me, this got to be a personal matter when I went to walk food and water up to seniors stranded in a highrise that functions as a de facto assisted living facility and found that, a week after the storm, no one had thought to evacuate them, or make official efforts to get food and water to them.
The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) has tried to supplement the awful anecdotes with data in a new report on emergency preparedness.
One problem is that resources are limited and health care systems are fragmented, but another problem is that important players, such as “primary care clinicians and nursing homes” typically do not participate in emergency-preparedness coalitions, the HSC researchers said in the report.
When, for example, researchers were trying to figure out how independent physicians might help fight a flu pandemic, “both hospital and community practice respondents acknowledged a sense of alienation from each other,” the researchers said.