Authority tells health centres to follow regulations to the letter.
Hospitals given new disaster plan rules
ABU DHABI // Hospitals will have to follow rigid new rules for managing disasters by the end of the month.
The new standards will provide action plans that healthcare providers must follow in emergencies, said Dr Wafa El Adhami, the manager of policy and research at the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad).
"If there is a chemical spill on a highway, for example, there will be many people involved and health professionals will be at the scene," Dr El Adhami said.
"The guidelines will clearly specify how these patients should be transported to the hospital, decontamination procedures and the resources that the hospital must be equipped with to handle the situation."
The guidelines will be released on Haad's website this week and will cover internal and external emergencies, Dr El Adhami said.
Under Haad's previous policy, hospitals had to submit their own disaster management plans according to a set of guidelines.
The new procedures will complement the authority's Environment Health Safety and Management Systems standard.
The importance of hospital safety was underscored this month in Kolkata, India when a hospital fire resulted in 90 deaths, of which 86 were patients.
Published in July, the health authority's plans covers 34 private and public hospitals.
"Evacuation maps must be posted throughout all facilities in a manner that is visible and ready for all occupants, and emergency assembly must be defined and clearly marked," said Dr Jens Thomsen, the head of occupational and environment health at Haad.
The rules also state each workplace "must have fire-detection and alarm systems, and firefighting equipment appropriate to the risks present", and that all emergencies must be reported to Haad.
Next month hospitals are expected to submit proposals that comply with the Environment Health Safety and Management Systems for approval. They will then have 12 months for full implementation.
Last January, Haad issued health-centre guidelines that obliged investors to follow architectural and construction requirements before applying for a licence.
Before the guidelines were in place, Haad was following international standards that "did not take the Abu Dhabi environment into consideration", said Dr Adeeb Al Zaabi, the manager of health facilities and licensing at the authority.
"The new guidelines have been customised for the emirate," Dr Al Zaabi said. "We need to take into consideration the culture of the UAE and the layout of the hospital, which often has larger rooms including dedicated rooms for prayer, as well as typical weather and traffic conditions."
Existing hospitals in high-rise buildings are required to modify their floor plans to follow the new regulations as closely as possible, he said.
"For example, the emergency department should always be on the ground floor," Dr Al Zaabi said.
Hospitals must also follow requirements set by Civil Defence and the Abu Dhabi Municipality.
Staircases must be large enough to accommodate stretchers during emergencies when elevators cannot be used, and there must be ramps on each floor.
Hospitals have already implemented policies according to the existing Haad requirements.
Lifeline Hospital, in a 21-floor building in the capital, has "floor controllers" to manage each level. The hospital occupies the ground floor and the first three levels in the building, and each floor has two fire exits.
"The moment there is a fire, the incident is announced, Civil Defence and Haad are notified," said Manjula Venkatappa, the operations manager at the hospital.
"Patients are placed into four categories and are attended to accordingly. All staff is trained how to evacuate patients who cannot move or need immediate help."
Mafraq Hospital has introduced a 10-code system, one for each type of emergency, including fires and hazardous spills.
"Each type of emergency has a dedicated team," said Tavoos Bhat, the hospital's safety officer. "We have a fire engineer at the hospital at all times in case there is a code red."
The hospital used to conduct annual fire drills in each department, but after receiving accreditation by Joint Commission International, it now conducts drills for each type of emergency.
Under the new standards all drills will have to be documented and submitted to the health authority for review.
"Drills will have to be carried out at least once a year for all types of emergencies," Dr Thomsen said. "We must do our best to eliminate the risks that could endanger the lives of both patients and staff."