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The largest gas leak in United States history occurred October 2015 through February 2016 near Porter Ranch (PR), California, and prompted the temporary relocation of nearby residents because of health concerns related to natural gas exposure.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted using US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administrative and clinical data. On the basis of zip codes, we created two groups: PR (1920 patients) and San Fernando Valley (SFV) (15 260 patients) and examined the proportion of outpatient visits to VA providers with respiratory-related diagnoses between October 2014 and September 2017.
We observed an increase in the proportion of visits in the PR group during the leak (7.0% vs 6.1%, P<0.005) and immediately after the leak (7.7% vs 5.3%, P<0.0001). For both groups, we observed a decrease in respiratory diagnoses one year after the leak (7.0% to 5.9%, P<0.05 PR; 6.1% to 5.7%, P<0.01 SFV).
Exposure to natural gas likely led to the observed increase in respiratory-related diagnoses during and after the PR gas leak. Early relocation following natural gas leaks may mitigate respiratory exacerbations. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2019;13:419-423)
There have been numerous initiatives by government and private organizations to help hospitals become better prepared for major disasters and public health emergencies. This study reports on efforts by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans Health Administration, Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) Comprehensive Emergency Management Program (CEMP) to assess the readiness of VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the nation.
This study conducts descriptive analyses of preparedness assessments of VAMCs and examines change in hospital readiness over time.
To assess change, quantitative analyses of data from two phases of preparedness assessments (Phase I: 2008-2010; Phase II: 2011-2013) at 137 VAMCs were conducted using 61 unique capabilities assessed during the two phases. The initial five-point Likert-like scale used to rate each capability was collapsed into a dichotomous variable: “not-developed=0” versus “developed=1.” To describe changes in preparedness over time, four new categories were created from the Phase I and Phase II dichotomous variables: (1) rated developed in both phases; (2) rated not-developed in Phase I but rated developed in Phase II; (3) rated not-developed in both phases; and (4) rated developed in Phase I but rated not- developed in Phase II.
From a total of 61 unique emergency preparedness capabilities, 33 items achieved the desired outcome – they were rated either “developed in both phases” or “became developed” in Phase II for at least 80% of VAMCs. For 14 items, 70%-80% of VAMCs achieved the desired outcome. The remaining 14 items were identified as “low-performing” capabilities, defined as less than 70% of VAMCs achieved the desired outcome.
Measuring emergency management capabilities is a necessary first step to improving those capabilities. Furthermore, assessing hospital readiness over time and creating robust hospital readiness assessment tools can help hospitals make informed decisions regarding allocation of resources to ensure patient safety, provide timely access to high-quality patient care, and identify best practices in emergency management during and after disasters. Moreover, with some minor modifications, this comprehensive, all-hazards-based, hospital preparedness assessment tool could be adapted for use beyond the VA.
Der-MartirosianC, RadcliffTA, GableAR, RiopelleD, HagigiFA, BrewsterP, DobalianA. Assessing Hospital Disaster Readiness Over Time at the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Prehsop Disaster Med. 2017;32(1):46–57.
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