Are Hospitals Equipped for a Large Scale Disaster or Terrorist Attack?

04 August 2015


Busy A&E departments are forced to hold patients for several hours (up to 24h) when beds are unavailable. Even critically ill patients can expect to wait frighteningly long hours until a critical care bed is ready.

In the US, the average waiting time for an inpatient acute or critical care bed is over 3 hours and an alarming 5.8 hours in overfilled hospitals. This means critical care patients could suffer treatment delays when time sensitive interventions are vital. For example, evidence in the case of diseases such as severe sepsis claims specialised therapy within the first six hours can decrease mortality up to 16%.

The Domino Effect

Long waits cause A&E to be filled beyond capacity. The A&E department is not designed to provide longitudinal care, and patient safety is compromised when overcapacity results in insufficient staffing to match the care required.

Death and admission rates are higher in busy A&E departments across the globe. According to the British Medical Journal, one study worryingly reported 34% higher short term mortality in patients during busy periods compared with those arriving at less busy times. Another study reported higher mortality at 2, 7 and 30 days for patients who arrived during busy times or endured a long wait in A&E.

So What’s the Effect on the Critical Care Medical Device Market?

A lot of consideration has gone into whether hospitals have enough staff in the case of emergency however, adequate thought does not’t appear to have gone into medical devices and literature on the subject is thin on the ground.

In the USA following September 11, The Food & Drug Agency’s Centre for Devices & Radiological Health began to think about device-related concerns in their counter-terrorism strategy. They managed to develop a formula that identifies which medical devices would be required in a terror attack.

Hospitals can order consumable medical equipment quickly with independent suppliers during an emergency. The complication comes with more specialised capital equipment or bigger devices such as defibrillators and ventilators which are sold directly into hospitals by a medical sales team.

The question is are hospitals properly utilising their manufacturer contacts to ensure the quantity & quality of capital equipment should a large scale emergency arise? Otherwise, they could face a worrying race against time to source the right supplier vs damage to and loss of life.

Are you in medical sales? What are your thoughts and do you have anything to add?