Five Days at Memorial is a devastating account of the impact of a Natural Disaster on the facilities that are taken for granted in modern countries.
Five Days at Memorial describes in excruciating detail what happened during Hurricane Katrina, at a time when thousands of patients, staff and families were trapped in Memorial Hospital which eventually lost power.
What really struck me as lessons to take away from Five Days at Memorial were:
- Nobody was managing the Business as Usual or Business Continuity Element within the Hospital – there was an Emergency Manager who was doing her best to manage the Emergency and making some questionable decisions under pressure – however, there was no unified group working together to direct how patients would continue to be cared for during this time of crisis.
- Doctors and Nurses were absolutely doing their best to establish some continuity of care – but the hospitals that fared best were more organized. They kept patients in their wards, maintained shift patterns and operated at a new level of Business as Usual. The patients in these hospitals fared much better.
- Miscommunication was a huge problem, many people were making decisions in isolation of all the facts. They were working with good intentions but some of the individual decisions had dire consequences.
- One decision was that LifeCare Patients (who were private patients on Level 7 of the Hospital) would not be included in the initial evacuation of Memorial Hospital Patients.
- The result of this ill-fated decision was that all of Memorial’s ventilated patients were evacuated first, and when this was complete Emergency Air Transport were advised that the most critical patients were all gone – despite the fact that the majority of LifeCare patients were on ventilators – still on their Ward.
- This type of silo working is extremely common and without open communication such decisions can have dire consequences as it did for the LifeCare Patients.
In the second half of the book the focus shifted to the investigation to prosecute the Doctor who euthanized a number of patients during the final stages of the evacuation.
- Again, due to miscommunication and a lack of clarity about what was happening with the evacuation Doctor’s initially started euthanizing pets who had been brought to the hospital by their owners for shelter.
- This led to veiled conversations about euthanizing the patients who couldn’t be evacuated.
- In the end it turned out that everybody could have been evacuated, but at the time some Doctors believed they would be forced to abandon their patients and took matters into their own hands.
- Some patients were legitimately very close to death and most probably would have died on transfer. However, a number of the suspicious deaths were of patients who did not have life threatening conditions and could have gone on to survive their ordeal.
I have recently learned that many hospitals in New Zealand don’t have evacuation plans and knowing New Zealand’s high risk of Natural Disasters, it’s certainly a scary thought.
This is the most recent article from Sheri Fink regarding Hurricane Harvey last year and the Emergency Response.
I found it very thought provoking – and a great read too. Fink is an amazing story-teller.
View a two minute video demonstration of BCP Builder’s Online Business Continuity Plan Template.