Lake Norman hospitals on standby during DNC
by Staff Writer
While hosting an event like the Democratic National Convention represents a week’s worth of unknowns to the Charlotte region, Tony Rich sees opportunities for area hospitals.
The convention has allowed hospitals across the region to fine-tune their emergency planning procedures, as well as increase collaboration, said Rich, emergency preparedness manager for Presbyterian Healthcare.
“The DNC has given us the opportunity to leverage many things we needed to do anyway,” Rich said.
He believes the convention allowed the hospital system to put processes in motion in a year’s time that would have taken four or five years because of red tape.
Rich anticipates Presbyterian Healthcare has committed hundreds of thousands in man hours of planning for the DNC. The convention has given the hospital an opportunity to converge with different groups, such as police and fire departments, the FBI and Secret Service.
Such collaboration has helped hospital leaders put names with faces and implement processes that are going to benefit this community in ways most people will never see, Rich said.
He points to a popular phrase among emergency management professionals: Disaster is no time to be trading business cards.
Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte has collaborated with member hospitals, but also with competing systems, such as Carolinas HealthCare, to be prepared for any event, including disasters.
“We will see the most activity here due to the close proximity to the DNC itself,” Rich said of Presbyterian Hospital’s Charlotte location. “Should we become inundated with patients or have more than we could feasibly take care of, we have plans to utilize Huntersville and Matthews to help decompress this facility.”
Presbyterian Huntersville will have a manager on call Sept. 3-6 to monitor the need for additional staffing, according to Kathy Fons, emergency preparedness manager for the hospital.
Otherwise, Fons views Presbyterian Huntersville’s role during the DNC as business as usual.
Triggers for additional staffing could range from multiple people seeking treatment for the same ailment to needing to accept transfers from the Charlotte hospital, Fons said.
CMC-Lincoln in Lincolnton will be on standby to support Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Carolinas HeathCare System manages both hospitals.
“We’ll be an overflow hospital should something happen,” said Pam Null, community relations director for CMC-Lincoln. Null doesn’t anticipate the hospital having much of a role or accessibility problems during the convention.
CMC-Lincoln is engaged in an emergency management task force and conducts drills regularly on “every possible scenario,” she said.
Fons recalled how Presbyterian Huntersville practiced a drill in May, in which outside evaluators assessed staff’s ability to respond to a potential surge in patients and offered suggestions to improve.
Leaders also take a Federal Emergency Management Agency course for emergency management preparedness, Fons said. They also meet regularly to discuss how emergency events are handled and how procedures could have been improved.