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How Hospitals Can Make Beds Available for Disaster Victims

New AMA disaster journal studies suggest discharging non-critical patients

For immediate release:
April 7, 2009

CHICAGO – Two new studies published today in the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal suggest that sufficient hospital capacity during a disaster can be achieved through evaluating resources and discharging non-critical patients.

“Making hospital beds available for victims of a mass emergency may be easier than once thought,” said study lead author Gabor D. Kelen M.D., professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Reverse triage, which is a system to create more inpatient hospital beds by discharging non-critical patients, can significantly increase surge capacity without a corresponding increase in resources.”

A related study suggests that refining and standardizing definitions of surge capacity relating to space, staffing, and supply concerns help implement surge capacity strategies for hospitals and health facilities during a mass casualty incidence.

“There is currently no accepted protocol for a detailed, phased way to increase hospital space during a disaster,” said John L. Hick, M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Minnesota and physician at Hennepin County Medical Center. “Surge capacity is affected by many variables, so systems and processes are critical to support surge-capacity decision making.”

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Editor’s Note: To obtain complete online access to the journal, contact AMA Media Relations at (312) 464-4813 and provide appropriate press credentials. The AMA’s Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal maintains editorial independence and the statements and opinions in the journal, including the articles referenced above, are not those of the AMA or Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. These two articles will publish in the June print issue.

About AMA’s Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness Journal
The AMA Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal was created to promote public health preparedness and the science of disaster medicine. It is the first comprehensive, peer-reviewed publication emphasizing public health preparedness and disaster response. The journal is published for the AMA by leading health care publisher Lippincott Williams & Wilkins An online version can be found on the Web at www.dmphp.org and also is available on the Journals@Ovid platform.

For more information, please contact:

Leah Dudowicz
American Medical Association
(312) 464-4813