World Health Organization Calls For Enhancing Security Of Hospitals


2009-04-07 11:16:00

ArmInfo. A conference entitled ‘Save Lives: Enhance Security of
Hospitals in Emergencies’ was held at UN Office in Armenia on April
7 on occasion of the World Health Day.

Head of the World Health Organization Office in Armenia Elizabeth
Danielyan said that in case of severe earthquakes and floods many
states lose nearly 50% of medical facilities. Too often, health
facilities are the first casualties of emergencies. This means
that health workers are killed and wounded, that services are not
available to treat survivors and that large investments of valuable
health funding in health facility construction and equipment are
squandered. Relatively inexpensive investments in infrastructure can
save lives during disasters. Retrofitting non-structural elements in an
otherwise structurally sound facility costs about 1% of the hospital’s
budget but will protect about 90% of its value. Infectious disease
outbreaks are another form of public health emergency that staff
should be trained for. In areas affected by conflicts, hospitals
and clinics should be allowed to function by all parties in line
with international humanitarian law. WHO is urging all ministries
of health to review the safety of existing health facilities and to
ensure that any new facilities are built with safety in mind.

She said WHO is focussing attention on the large numbers of lives
that can be saved during earthquakes, floods , conflicts and other
emergencies if hospitals are better designed and constructed and health
staff well trained to respond. She said construction of a new hospital
resistant to natural calamities does not require much investment. ‘It
is even less expensive than modernization of the existing facilities’,
she said.

E. Danielyan highlighted some effective measures to upgrade the
readiness of hospitals to work during emergencies. Thus World Health
Organization is recommending six core actions that governments,
public health authorities and hosptal managers can undertake to
make their health facilities safe during emergencies. These include
training health workers, designing and building safe hospitals,
retrofitting existing health facilities to make them more resilient
and ensuring staff and supplies are secure during natural disasters,
conflicts, outbreaks and other emergencies. Practical and effective
low cost measures such as protecting equipment, developing emergency
preparedness plans and training staff can help make health facilities
safer, better prepared and more functional in emergencies The six core
actions that governments, public health authorities and others who
operate hospitals and health care facilities can take are: 1. Assess
the security of your hospital 2. Protect and train health workers
for emergencies 3. Plan for emergency response 4. Design and build
resilient hospitals 5. Adopt national policies and programmes for
safe hospitals Protect equipment, medicines and supplies

For his part, representative of Armenian Ministry of Emergency
Situations, Alvaro Antonyan, said that in Armenia seismic safety of
buildings is the most important problem. He emphasized that in this
context the capital city of the republic is the most vulnerable as
against the background of dense population not all the buildings
can resist 9 ball earthquake. He also said that in Armenia there
are three types of medical service points and hospitals: 2-4-storied
buildings built before 1960 (30% out of the total number); 2-4- storied
buildings with concrete core (50%) and many-storied panel buildings
(20%). Buildings with the concrete core are the most earthquake-proof,
Antonyan said.

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