At a conference this spring, a Bronx doctor will be educating medical professionals from across the country about the effects of natural disasters on the health care system, a subject that New York knows all too well about because of Hurricane Sandy.
NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Hurricane Sandy was a storm unimaginable for New Yorkers. It was also unimaginable for the people who take care of some of the most vulnerable residents of the city.
"One of the most important things I've learned is that no matter how much planning you do, all disasters happen locally," says Dr. Sheldon Teperman, trauma director at Jacobi Medical Center.
When Hurricane Sandy barreled down on the city, Jacobi Medical Center, nestled in the Northeast Bronx, wasn't affected physically, but it received an influx of patients from hospitals that were.
For that reason, the hospital's trauma director was asked to educate others in his field on how to deal with such natural disasters.
Teperman says the most important lesson he learned from the storm is that an evacuation plan is key, and health care facilities need to take that action into their own hands.
"Often, the way patients get transferred safely is, it doesn't happen through some central command center," Teperman said. "It's doctors talking to their colleagues at the receiving hospital, nurses talking to nurses. And the cavalry may not come, so you need to be an advocate for your own patients."
Teperman also urges administrators to talk with their staff and learn about what's going on in their health care facilities. They're suggestions he believes are invaluable when a disaster hits.
"Understand how safe the situation is. Also understand when you have to abandon ship," he says. "There is a notion of sheltering in place, and that's good. It's dangerous to transfer patients unnecessarily. There's a lot of talk about that. It is dangerous. But at a certain point it is no longer safe to take care of patients in a hospital. At that point, a decision has to be made to evacuate."
Dr. Teperman plans to use these tips to help trauma doctors from across the country improve their disaster response plans. He will share his experiences at the Medical Disaster Response 2013 Conference on March 17.