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Disasters and Design: One Hospital’s Story


By Cathryn Jakicic Emergency Preparedness
medical team

Emergencies have a way of exposing problems with an institutional or commercial facility’s preparations. But they also can show facility managers opportunities for improving the organization’s preparation and response.

Prior to Hurricane Harvey, the emergency department layout at Harris Health’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital was traditional, according to Health Facilities Management. During the hurricane, the department began using one of its bays as a temporary inpatient unit. The smaller space inspired the department to rethink the patient flow.

“During Harvey, we were surrounded by 6 feet of water for five days,” says Alan Vierling, executive vice president. “We started to notice water penetration in our inpatient area caused by the high winds and rain. We lost 133 patient rooms out of roughly 171. The loss of space necessitated relocation and movement of patients within the facility. So, we restructured our space.”

They realized that not every patient needs to lie down in a stretcher. Keeping patients vertical resulted in a 52 percent drop in emergency department boarding hours, a 29 percent drop in the number of patients who left without being seen and a 22 percent drop in average wait times to see a provider, according to the article.

The department now has more chairs than stretchers, and one of the bed bays has been permanently transformed into an internal waiting room for lower-acuity patients. In addition, the waiting room has been divided into three zones based on the seriousness of each person’s condition.

This Quick Read was submitted by Cathryn Jakicic, Healthcare Industries Editor, FacilitiesNet. For more about hospital campuses and other medical facilities, visit https://www.facilitiesnet.com/healthcarefacilities.

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