Monday, December 22, 2008

Silent Night

Keepbreathing posted about the quiet lull that seems to settle in a hospital before the rush of the holidays arrives in full swing.  For me, there's nothing eerier than an empty ER.  Every so often, we shut down one half of the department after midnight so the floors can be waxed.  It's like a scene from some apocalyptic movie: empty chairs with sweatshirts still thrown over them, computer screens still lit with no one to look at them, treatment rooms with monitors beeping but no stretchers.  Just seems unnatural for the hallways to be devoid of parked stretchers and a steady stream of organized chaos.

And that's part of the problem.  While ER abuse and overcrowding are dangerous but well-discussed problems, this article points to liability they pose for disaster preparedness.  According to the piece, more than half of Southern California's hospitals are on diversion at least 20% of the time, and up to 75% of teaching hospitals are either at or over capacity in their EDs at any given moment.  Persistent bed shortages and packed ERs severely limit a hospital's surge capacity in the event of a large-scale emergency, adding yet another pressing reason to reform the state of emergency care.  As one industry observer states, "If Southern California's hospitals can't handle patient inflow even during the course off a normal day, I have grave doubts about how the region would do in a disaster scenario."

1 comment:

Evil Transport Lady said...

I even feel strange when walking into an empty gives me the chills.

Our hospitals only go on diversion for class 4 patients....which are nutcases;)