Dissertation Abstract

Hospital Disaster Response: An Empirical Study Following the Great Hanshin Earthquake, Kobe-Osaka, Japan, January 17, 1995

Publication Number:  AAT9812405
Author:  Bowen, Nancy Joanne
School:  University of Pittsburgh
Date:  1997
Pages:  110
Subject:  Public Health, Health Care, Urban Planning, Area Planning and Development, Disaster Relief

Over the past thirty years there have been many evaluations of hospitals' responses to disasters both internal and external. These studies have been, for the most part, descriptive and have focused on the hospitals' responses to either an internal or external disaster. It has only been recently that hospitals have begun to view themselves as victims of disasters. Hospitals have found themselves having to respond to simultaneous internal and external disasters, having suffered both structural and functional damage, and still expected to attend to the medical needs of the injured.

This study investigated the impact (structural and functional) the Great Hanshin Earthquake had on the hospitals in the affected region following the January 17, 1995 earthquake that struck Kobe-Osaka, Japan.

The two main parameters examined were hospital organization and lifelines. Hospital organization included: disaster planning, structural issues/evacuation, staffing, communication, and medical supplies. Lifelines included: electric, gas, and water supply. In addition to the quantitative data collected through the survey, qualitative data was extracted from two English text Japanese newspapers for a period of time following the earthquake.

Two hundred and twenty-four hospitals in the affected region were mailed a questionnaire, one hundred eight-two surveys were returned for a return rate of (81.3%). Although disaster planning/preparedness activities had been undertaken by the hospitals, delivery of services were impaired by structural damage, equipment failure, supply shortages, staff shortages, and disruption in utilities.

These findings can assist those who prepare hospitals for disasters to review their emergency preparedness disaster plans in a critical light. By quantifying the critical components necessary for hospitals to function following a disaster, hospitals will be in a better position to do their job of caring for disaster victims.

Finally, a mechanism for distributing research findings is presented so others may benefit from the experience and knowledge gained from hospitals that have experienced and recovered from the impact of a major disaster.

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