Focus on Pediatric Preparedness within Healthcare Coalitions

When some of the top players in pediatrics gathered in July of 2014 to discuss emergency preparedness, as it applies specifically to pediatrics, there were clear holes in plans. Soon after, the Mountain States Pediatric Disaster Coalition was formed from free-standing children’s hospitals and pediatric departments in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.
 
The next year, 100 participants gathered for the first National Pediatric Disaster Coalition Meeting. The participants included local healthcare coalition members, health care providers from mental health, general health, and critical care departments as well as representatives from children’s hospitals, and regional pediatric preparedness coordinators.

Pediatric Specific Challenges Identified

Most of the challenges identified by this first meeting are similar to the ones healthcare coalitions across the country have been dealing with. When looking at these challenges from the position of a pediatric provider, they take on a slightly different angle.
  • Coordinators span great geographic distance
  • States have unequal systems
  • Verbiage differences between large pediatric facilities and critical care facilities
  • Lack of full understanding of the abilities of neighboring facilities
  • Families are often hours away from definitive pediatric care

Working Together

As with all healthcare coalitions, the key is to work together to respond to a disaster. The pediatric coordinators should be working hand in hand with regional health care coalition representatives to ensure that the pediatric population, and their families, are taken care of. The first step is to begin by gathering data and making it easily accessible to all of the facilities, emergency operation centers, and others who need to know.
  • Establish a database with information on the capacity of each facility and the types of pediatric physicians
  • Include in the database information such as NICU levels, transport teams, surgeons, inpatient psychological options, etc.
  • Full contact information for each facility, including demographics, staff, bed availability, after-hour contacts
  • Be sure to share real-time event reporting of where help is needed and what is available to assist
  • Use social media to share toolkits, information, and communicate with the coalition

What’s Next?

It’s never too soon to start working with other pediatric units and coalitions. Don’t wait for someone else to get things rolling, start now. “It’s a small group of thoughtful and connected people that change things,” Aaron Gardner, MD, MS, FAAP a Pediatric Intensivist at Easter Idaho Regional Medical Center said in a February 2017 webinar titled Say What? The Ins and Outs of Communicating in a Disaster.
 
A few of the suggestions presented in the webinar for getting pediatric preparedness moving are:
  • Find out who serves as the emergency manager or preparedness manager at the hospital
  • Review some models of those who are doing it right
  • Freestanding children’s hospitals
  • Southeastern Regional Pediatric Disaster Response Network
  • Burn Centers have a good model of regional coalition work in regards to communication.
  • Find a coalition that is active near your location, also talk to local fire, ems, and emergency management department

Pediatric patients matter and should be accounted for in the planning stages. if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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