Health care organizations prompted to think power

Filed under: Health Care |

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has issued an alert that urges health care organizations to pay attention to how emergency power systems can fail, and recommends steps to keep patients safe in the event of a disaster or other major event.

Reports after the 2001 floods in Houston, the 2003 blackout in the Northeast and hurricanes that have hammered the Southeast during the past two years show how severely clinical operations can be affected in health care organizations that lose their electrical power. The alert brings the reality of these risks to the attention of the nation’s health care organizations, and offers solutions to avoiding adverse patient care events during electrical power failures.

According to the alert, compliance with minimum National Fire Protection Association codes is not enough to assure the safety of patients during emergencies. For example, many health care organizations did not have sufficient power to cool or ventilate facilities during the sweltering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

To reduce the risks to patients created by power failure, the commission recommends the following steps:

  • Match the crucial equipment and systems needed in an extended emergency against the equipment and systems on the emergency power system.
  • Inventory emergency power systems and the loads they serve.
  • Provide training for, and test, those who operate and maintain the emergency power supply system.
  • Ensure that generator fuel is available and usable.
  • Assure that the organization management and clinical leaders know how long emergency power will be available and what locations within the facility will and will not have emergency power in the event of an electrical outage.
  • Establish contingency plans for doctors and other caregivers to follow during losses of electrical power.

In addition, the commission is adding a requirement: organizations must test emergency generators at least once every 36 months for a minimum of four continuous hours. Facilities already must test their generators 12 times a year for 30 minutes. If a test fails, the organization must implement stop-gap measures until a permanent fix can be put into place.

The warning about risks associated with emergency power failures is the latest in a series of alerts issued by the commission. Most of the information provided in the alerts is drawn from the commission’s sentinel event database, one of the nation’s most comprehensive voluntary reporting systems for adverse events in health care.

The database includes information about events and their underlying causes. Previous alerts have addressed wrong-site surgery, medication mix-ups, health care associated infections and patient suicides. The complete list can be found at the www.jointcommission.org.

Colorado Access chooses to decline Medicaid coverage

Colorado Access, a nonprofit health plan that benefits medically underserved people, has decided not to renew its Medicaid physical health contract.

Officials at Colorado Access said the company is not going out of business, but plans to serve its 100,000 clients through three other lines of health care.

Colorado Access will remain the largest health plan for Child Health Plan Plus, a state health plan for children whose families cannot afford health coverage. A family of four can make $3,333 a month ($39,996 a year) and still qualify. Colorado Access ChP+ offers free over-the-counter medications when prescribed by a doctor, lower co-payments, and enhanced vision, therapy and hearing aid benefits.

The company also will continue its Access Advantage Medicare Special Needs Plan for people who have Medicare and Medicaid and live in either the Denver-metro area or El Paso County.

For more information about the change in coverage and benefits offered, call Colorado Access at (800) 511-5010.

Colorado’s Nurse-Family Partnership continues

El Paso County’s Department of Health and Environment will receive a grant for $860,848 to serve 200 expectant mothers through the Nurse-Family Partnership.

The grant was part of a nearly $10 million award given to agencies throughout the state.

The funding continues a program in which experienced registered nurses visit low income, first-time pregnant women to assist them in acquiring skills, support and knowledge needed to deliver healthy babies.

Funds provided by Colorado’s Nurse Home Visitor grant program totaled $7.35 million from the state’s tobacco settlement funds and $2.57 million from Medicaid. The grant period ends June 30, 2007.

Esperanza Ybarra of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the program will serve 2,187 families in 51 Colorado counties. Nationally, the program serves more than 20,000 families in 51 states.

The Colorado Nurse-Family Partnership National office reported the following program results through June 30:

  • 20 percent reduction in cigarette smoking during pregnancy
  • 42 percent reduction in family/domestic violence
  • 95 percent child immunization rate at 24 months of age
  • 85 percent breast-feeding rate at birth
  • Increase of marriage during participating in the program, from 20 percent at program intake to 36 percent at program completion.
  • Fewer premature babies in the program, 9.1 percent, compared to the statewide rate of 9.8 percent.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.