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Rhode Island Hospital received a $5 million emergency preparedness grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2007. The hospital was chosen from a field of 40 applicants and was one of only five in the country to be selected for the 2007 Healthcare Facilities Emergency Care Partnership Program.
The three-year grant was designed to ensure that the state of Rhode Island's emergency medical system had the ability to receive, treat and respond to a disaster or a mass casualty event. As a national demonstration project, Rhode Island Hospital and Lifespan shared best practices with other health systems to further strengthen and enhance emergency planning and preparedness throughout the country.
A Patient Tracking System
An electronic patient tracking system built upon the current web-based Hospital Capacity System, which is used by hospitals around Rhode island. This new system was installed in a dozen communities covering half of the daily EMS runs each day. It was used daily or during disaster events to track the availability of hospital beds throughout the state.
Wireless laptops, associated software and wireless connectivity were installed in the state's emergency transport vehicles for the tracking of all patients involved in daily events to major disasters. The tracking system gave hospitals crucial extra minutes in preparing for a surge in patients. Proper patient tracking was identified as an area to be addressed following The Station nightclub fire. The funding from this grant brought the state closer to meeting these recommendations.
Emergency Communications Mobile Units (Rapid Emergency Satellite
Communications or RESCQ) for Each Hospital
Coordinated by Lifespan, these mobile, innovative communications solutions provided complete voice and data communications capability through a direct satellite link. All equipment needed, including a generator, was enclosed in a reinforced, wheeled laundry cart. These systems are capable of being set up and made operational in about 30 minutes by non-technical staff or volunteers.
The 22 systems were deployed at 14 hospitals, the RI Department of Health, RI Emergency Management Agency, Disaster Medical Assistance Team, Providence Emergency Management Agency, Lifespan Office of Emergency Preparedness and two units were set aside to send out as needed in emergency situations. The system has 10 phones, 2 laptops and 5 handheld radios to support voice and data users in the event that the communication infrastructure fails. Other laptops were connected wirelessly within a certain perimeter.
The RESCQ handheld radios are compatible with public safety portable radio systems. The need for and importance of a system such as this became more apparent following Hurricane Katrina when hospitals in New Orleans had no ability to communicate with outside agencies.
National Incident Management System (NIMS) Compliance
The program helped to aid all the state's hospitals in completing federally-required NIMS activities. Rhode Island Hospital hired a full-time NIMS manager and a team of trainers to help hospitals reach compliance. When this had been achieved, hospitals and all emergency responders around the country were able to share a common language when communicating during a disaster.