With less than four months before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services implement their new emergency preparedness regulations, health care providers and suppliers are ramping up their efforts to ensure their organization will meet the CMS guidelines compliance deadline of November 15, 2017. What do these new regulations mean for you exactly?
The way you view emergency preparedness and patient safety might totally change. CMS is requiring all health care services and facilities to establish an emergency preparedness and communication plan. In addition, new policies and procedures must be put into place to support the new CMS required plan, as well as a training and testing program to ensure your employees are fully capable of carrying out the necessary functions.
Naturally, there’s more to it than the four general guidelines listed above. Compliance requires more than a single emergency plan. Instead, your facility must conduct a risk assessment covering six different potential types of incidents and develop specific emergency response plans including tailored responses to each type of event.
These six types of events include:
- Epidemics and pandemics
- Biological events
- Chemical events
- Nuclear and radiological events
- Explosive-incendiary events
- Natural incidents
Keep reading for an explanation of what each of these types of events could entail and what CMS will be expecting from your facility’s emergency preparedness program.
1. Epidemics and Pandemics
As a hospital or a general health care facility, if you have not put in place adequate measures to prevent and control infection and disease, you’re allowing your organization to possibly succumb to the risk of amplifying an epidemic by potentially letting infection spread to patients, staff and visitors.
Without any kind of treatment or attention, these infected individuals are prone to boosting transmission of the infection into the community upon leaving the facility or hospital, thwarting the hospital’s overall epidemic and pandemic response efforts and putting hundreds or even thousands of individuals at risk.
2. Biological Incidents
Biological hazards include viruses, bacteria and fungi, as well as parasitic worms and some plants. Common diseases caused by the mentioned biological agents include bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic diseases. The best way your organization or facility can control and remain free from biological hazards is to reduce or eliminate exposure.
3. Chemical Incidents
Misuse of chemicals such as cleaning and disinfecting agents, laboratory chemicals, medical gases, anesthetic agents, as well as cytotoxic drugs and pharmaceutical substances can cause health effects to facility personnel and patients, physical hazards like a flammable, explosive or oxidizing chemical, or impact the environment if stored or disposed incorrectly. Evaluate what types of chemicals are used and stored in your facility or office and enforce proper handling and storage procedures to ensure the employee and patient safety.
4. Nuclear and Radiological Incidents
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that an estimated seven million health workers are exposed to radiation in excess of background levels. Annually, there are more than 3.6 billion X-ray examinations, 37 million nuclear imaging procedures, and 7.5 million radiotherapy procedures occurring worldwide. Radiation of this magnitude can produce gene mutation and chromosomal alteration, delayed and improper cell division, metabolism interference, and various types of cancer.
Not all healthcare suppliers and providers work with nuclear and radiological elements, but if you do, you must regulate how much time your employees and patients spend being exposed to radiation and nuclear agents, how and if they distance themselves from the source of exposure properly and the types of shielding equipment used during exposure. Lastly, it’s important to have the correct contact information for emergency response entities that specialize with nuclear emergencies and accidents.
5. Explosive-Incendiary Incidents
Explosive and incendiary responses in healthcare are not thought of as often as other incidents, but they do happen. Explosions can occur from a variety of sources such as a mishandling of propane or oxygen tanks, industrial accidents, or even intentionally detonated terrorist devices and can result in “blast” or “explosion” injuries. Structural stability, proximity to combustibles and toxic substances are primary concerns that should be included in your evaluation and development of a response plan.
The CDC has found that preparedness for explosive or incendiary incidents was less frequent than preparedness for other types of incidents. To combat this, OSHA has recommended a minimum of 8 hours of training for workers who may encounter these kinds of hazardous materials and devices. Lastly, providers must have a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) response plan and should be prepared to enact when responding to an explosive/incendiary accident.
6. Natural Incidents
Natural incidents such as wildfires, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, severe weather conditions, etc. often affect health care infrastructure, putting workers and patients in harm’s way. Widespread damage can result in a disorganized response from within the facility as well as from local law enforcement and emergency response teams.
Disasters of this magnitude are never planned for, so it’s pertinent for your organization to develop and practice robust evacuation plans addressing each of the natural disasters that may affect your area. Planning, equipping your hospital or office space with emergency supplies, training and drilling are crucial for surviving natural disasters.
Luckily, you are likely already aware of the types of events that could impact your facility and have some form of plan in place for when these six types of critical events arise. CMS recommends reviewing and updating these plans, policies and procedures surrounding these hazards so that new employees are properly trained and informed, appropriate maintenance is conducted as needed, and infrastructure is overall stable and safe.