With more than 67 per cent of the approximately 18, 000 hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean located in areas at higher risk of disasters, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is training a cadre of professionals to evaluate the safety of hospitals within their respective countries.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, made this disclosure earlier today as she addressed the opening of a three-day workshop for the Application of the Hospital Safety Index Training for Evaluators at PAHO???s Dayrell???s Road, St Michael Headquarters.
She pointed out that the vulnerability of health facilities was well documented and our region was at risk for natural hazards. Admitting that within the context of health facilities, vulnerability was amplified if there was insufficient integration of safety measures in the location, design, construction and operations, the CMO stressed that she saw the Hospital Safety Index as ???an excellent tool for making sure that we all understood the need to be better prepared???.
???In any disaster situation, the ability to maintain functioning health services is a matter of life and death. The success of a disaster preparedness effort depends on our ability to ensure that health facilities can perform vital functions,??? she said.
Dr. St. John also revealed that following an assessment using the safe hospital index tool, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital had already implemented several structural improvements.
She further indicated that to facilitate these enhancements the Ministry of Health had placed in its estimates for 2014-2015, as well as for the next two to three years, funds to cover any infrastructural changes to hospitals, district hospitals and polyclinics.
Also addressing the workshop was PAHO Caribbean Programme Coordinator, Dr. Ernest Pate who said that the concept of ???safe hospitals??? meant much more than simply protecting the lives of patients and health workers and preventing damage to hospital infrastructure and equipment.
He noted that it also meant healthcare networks that continued to provide services to those affected by a disaster, and hospitals that continued to perform their work under disaster conditions. To this end, Dr. Pate reinforced that hospitals must remain functional immediately after a disaster.
The Hospital Safety Index is an instrument developed by an expert group of architects, engineers, administrators, physicians and disaster management specialists convened and supported by PAHO. The index provides a rapid assessment of the level of safety of various aspects of a hospital???s structure and functioning.
Since 2008, 120 professionals from 17 countries have been trained, to assess the safety of health facilities, and develop improvement plans to address deficiencies identified.