Editor's note: The following is a news release from King County Public Health.
The harrowing patient evacuations during Superstorm Sandy visibly demonstrated the challenges that hospitals face in disasters. If a major earthquake or disaster hits the Puget Sound area, how would our health care system handle it?
To proactively prepare for coordination of critical healthcare services in a disaster, hospitals, public health agencies, and other health care providers in King and Pierce counties have joined forces as the Northwest Healthcare Response Network (NWHRN).
The new coalition, which officially launches in January, was formed from a merger of the King County Healthcare Coalition and the Pierce County Coalition for Healthcare in Emergencies. NWHRN will help coordinate the efforts and resources of hospitals, long-term care, pediatric and other providers in planning, training, and responding to emergencies.
"Communities are more resilient to disasters when neighbors help one another, and that also applies to healthcare," said Dr. David Grossman, medical director at Group Health Cooperative and Chair of NWHRN's Executive Council. "By sharing resources—like hospital beds, medical supplies, and medical staff—we will be more efficient and save more lives."
The newly formed NWHRN will continue initiatives begun under the two separate coalitions, including planning for pediatric care during disasters, development of mutual aid agreements for medical facility evacuations, and coordinating a rapid response to any incident that has large numbers of casualties and fatalities.
Currently, over 300 healthcare organizations are part of NWHRN, including ambulatory, mental health, hospital, in-home service, long-term care, pediatric, safety-net, and specialty providers. NWHRN also will work closely with emergency management, fire, Emergency Medical Services, and law enforcement partners. It will be administered by Public Health – Seattle & King County, in partnership with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Participants include Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Kidney Centers, Washington Poison Center, and Franciscan Health System.
For more information about Northwest Healthcare Response Network (NWHRN): www.nwhrn.org.