10 years ago, Hurricane Katrina Changed Us

August 20, 2015

August 20, 2015 - None of us want to think about bad times. It’s in our makeup to minimize risks that we face on a regular basis, such as from automobile accidents, and to characterize an unusual event such as Ebola Viral Disease as much more likely to affect our daily lives and behaviors. That’s why it is so exciting that Healthcare Ready is here and focused on both the predictable and new challenges that face the critical healthcare sector here in the United States and across the globe.

Healthcare Ready was formed as Rx Response at a time when we could no longer be complacent that the medical supply chain could tackle the problem of ensuring access to medicines following disasters on their own. We built partnerships, improved communication, and demanded recognition for the whole of the healthcare system as essential components. After all, hospitals cannot continue to efficiently provide emergency care if they are overwhelmed with acutely providing care for conditions that are routinely managed in the home or in other outpatient settings. We are now leading the charge for interoperability and local control of credentialing for access to disaster areas to hasten critical infrastructure companies’ ability to initiate assessment and recovery operations.

But, as FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate points out in a recent interview, relying solely on historical patterns of risk and response will not ensure that we are best prepared for what comes next. We must strive against the comfort of thinking we know exactly what our risk profile in healthcare is and fully take into account the information that science is providing to us. He points out that we have a difficult time defining at what point drought and water scarcity become a disaster, and yet this issue is one that has already begun impacting a large portion of the US population. In healthcare, we face the same issues with emerging infectious diseases – at what point do we declare an emergency or accept that altered standards of care are required? There is still a great deal of uncertainty, as was exposed with our response to Ebola, both as a global community and domestically.

Non-profits are often started to solve a particular problem. In our case, it was to help ensure that patients had access to medicines in disaster. We have, in the past 9 years of operation, been able to impact that particular issue here in the US in a number of ways. But complacency can put us right back where we were prior to the wake-up call that 1,800 deaths, 800,000 homes damaged or destroyed and $81 Billion dollars in damages provided to us in 2005. Let’s continue to work together to ensure the resiliency of our healthcare system to old threats and new – after all, the health of our communities depends on it.

Erin Mullen, RPh, PhD, CEM

Dr. Erin Mullen is a Senior Consultant for Healthcare Ready. She is a pharmacist, emergency manager, and disaster responder.