5.2 A program for safe hospitals in disasters

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Achieving safe hospitals requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses the necessary policy, legal, and technical issues, and that ensures that all relevant institutions and actors will contribute to reaching the goal. Recognition by planners of the social, economic and political benefits of health care facilities that continue to function in disasters is considered a fundamental element in advancing this initiative, and in ensuring that there is a perception of real results on the part of the public.

In addition to a policy platform, a legal framework that supports the policy and technical support, it is also necessary to establish a formal program that indicates specific actions, timeframes, and designated responsible staff to facilitate monitoring progress.

 The concept of ‘safe hospitals’ means much more than simply protecting the lives of patients’ and health workers’ and preventing damage to hospital infrastructure and equipment. It means health networks that continue to provide services to those affected by a disaster, and hospitals that continue to perform their work under disaster conditions. Recent experience has confirmed that hospitals save lives, reinforcing the fact that they must remain functional immediately after a disaster. Experience in Latin America and the Caribbean has shown that even low and middle-income countries can improve the safety of their health facilities. Further progress in reducing vulnerability now depends essentially on what other sectors do, on multidisciplinary collaboration, and on stronger political commitment. Read more about this in Safe Hospitals: A Collective Responsibility, a Global Measure of Disaster Reduction.

The objectives of a national program for safe hospitals include:

  • Developing national policies and regulations for disaster-safe hospitals;
  • Ensuring that 100% of new health facilities are designed and built with levels of safety that guarantee their continued operation in a disaster;
  • Reducing the vulnerability of existing health facilities, beginning with the network’s highest-priority facilities; and
  • Systematizing experiences and monitoring the results of implementing national ‘safe hospitals policies and regulations.