Hospital preparedness for hazardous materials incidents and treatment of contaminated patients

J L Burgess, G M Blackmon, C A Brodkin, W O Robertson
Western Journal of Medicine 1997, 167 (6): 387-91
Hospital-based facilities providing emergency care in the state of Washington were surveyed to determine their level of preparedness for hazardous materials incidents including the treatment of contaminated patients. Responses to a faxed questionnaire were received from 95 (94%) of the 101 emergency care facilities in Washington State. Only 42 (44%) of the facilities reported the ability to receive any chemically exposed patient. Of the 95 responding emergency care facilities, 39 (41%) had no designated decontamination facilities; 67 (70%) had protocols for handling chemical contamination and possible evacuation from hazardous materials spills, and 52 (55%) had protocols for handling medical facility contamination and possible evacuation from treating chemically contaminated patients. Twelve (13%) facilities had evacuated their emergency department or other part of the hospital for contamination incidents in the past 5 years. Despite the frequent occurrence of hazardous materials incidents, most emergency care facilities in Washington State are not fully prepared to handle contaminated patients and chemical spills. This may have important implications for the care of persons with exposure to hazardous materials and for implementing Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations standards and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

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