WHO’s hospital safety index and emergency checklist rolled out in Europe

WHO/Disaster Medicine Centre Republic of Moldova

The walls of a psychiatric hospital in the Republic of Moldova have been retrofitted with steel braces to improve earthquake resilience.

WHO has developed tools, including the index and checklist, helping health authorities to improve hospitals and health systems’ ability to prepare for emergencies and remain resilient during and after disasters.

Assessments using the hospital safety index were made in 9 countries in the WHO European Region. These include training national experts to assess priority hospitals and identifying the most effective mitigation measures for emergencies.

Several countries, including the Republic of Moldova, have integrated the application of the hospital safety index into the processes for accrediting hospitals, or planning new ones, as in Georgia. In Tajikistan, recommendations on structural and other improvements, developed with the Ministry of Health, were used to mobilize donor funding for priority mitigation measures and retrofitting vulnerable facilities. Hospital emergency plans were developed, updated and tested through exercises and drills in Poland and in the Ukraine, and complemented by training of health professionals in emergency management.

To date, more than 140 hospital assessment reports have been produced. Countries shared their experience at a global expert meeting in Istanbul, Turkey in March 2012 and several national and regional meetings.

The WHO tools assess hospitals’ vulnerabilities, promote low-cost/high-impact mitigation measures and strengthen emergency preparedness to ensure that hospitals keep functioning during all emergencies.

13 October 2012 is the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

Need for health services to remain functional in disasters and emergencies

Health services need to keep functioning during and after crises and disasters, when they are needed most. Making sure that hospitals and health facilities are safe and prepared for emergencies is a key priority to ensure community resilience and protect the health of vulnerable groups. Vulnerable groups, particularly women and girls, are often among those most affected in communities hit by disasters.

When hospitals fail, communities are left without critical health services, including basic emergency care. Keeping hospitals safe from natural or human-made threats goes beyond the mere protection of buildings and physical structures. It requires protecting and ensuring the preparedness of the health workforce, and preserving supply lines to keep facilities operational.