ER Docs Say Hospitals Aren't Ready for a Mass TragedyA new poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) reports that nine out of 10 ER doctors believe their hospitals aren’t prepared for a mass tragedy or major disaster. The poll, released May 22, also revealed that fewer than 50 percent of doctors believe their emergency rooms are “somewhat” equipped to handle an incident that dramatically increases ER patient load, like a mass shooting or natural disaster.

Methodology and findings

To get their data, ACEP surveyed 1,328 emergency room doctors between April 25 and May 6, and found an unexpected level of unpreparedness.

Ninety-three doctors responded that their ER would not be able to handle a surge of patients from a natural or man-made disaster (i.e., a weather-related event or terrorist attack). And fewer than half of respondents (about 49%) felt their hospital was “somewhat” prepared. Nine out of ten doctors said that their emergency rooms lack adequate stockpiles of critical medications.

“Hospitals and emergency medical services continue to suffer significant gaps in disaster preparedness, as well as national drug shortages for essential emergency medications,” ACEP President Dr. Paul Kivela said. “These shortages can last for months, or longer, and constitute a significant risk to patients.”

He also said the findings demonstrate the need for a stronger focus on the medical aspects of preparedness in the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2018 (PAHPAI), currently being drafted in Washington, D.C.

“Emergency physicians are concerned that our system cannot even meet daily demands, let alone during a medical surge for a natural or man-made disaster,” Kivela added.

Necessary next steps

Almost 90 percent of the doctors polled for the study said they’ve had to take time away from treating patients to explore alternative treatments and drugs. And nearly 70 percent said drug shortages have significantly increased over the past year.

Based on the results of the study, the ACEP is calling on lawmakers for assistance in helping hospitals and medical facilities prepare for emergencies with mass casualties. Their suggestions include:

  • Improved communication and coordination between public health and safety services, hospitals, emergency medical services, trauma centers, and other facilities in local areas.
  • Regular monitoring of resources—inpatient, emergency department and trauma center capacity, on-call specialist coverage, and ambulance status when making hospital destination decisions for patients.
  • Implementation of regional data management systems linking hospitals and related facilities together.

“Congress must recognize that current shortages of essential emergency medications are a substantial threat to our nation’s preparedness and response capabilities. ACEP urges lawmakers to establish an inter-agency, inter-departmental, and multi-disciplinary task force that includes representation from the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, among others,” explained Dr. Kivela.

ACEP is urging federal lawmakers to create a task force that would include input from government agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Another of ACEP’s recommendations is making military trauma teams available to civilian trauma centers and hospitals when they’re not deployed in the field.

Hospitals are becoming increasingly understaffed and chaotic. These conditions can set the stage for medical negligence or malpractice. If you or someone you love are a victim of medical malpractice, the Chicago negligence attorneys at Gainsberg Law can help. Get in touch with us through our contact form, or by calling 312-600-9585 to schedule a consultation.