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Emergency Preparedness Failures and Entity Liability

posted on Tue, Mar 29 2011 10:35 am by Chase Millea, Jalayne Arias and James G. Hodge, Jr.

Emergency Preparedness Failures
On March 23, 2011, Tenet Healthcare Corporation settled a class action suit stemming from injuries and deaths of several patients in its Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Victims and their families claimed Tenet was liable for damages resulting largely from its failure to implement emergency preparedness measures.

While the terms of its settlement are not presently known, the suit highlights the importance of advance emergency preparedness measures by hospitals and other health care providers. Plaintiffs alleged that Tenet failed to appropriately prepare for Hurricane Katrina in several key ways, specifically that it (1) lacked an adequate backup electrical system; (2) did not have a viable patient evacuation plan; (3) did not implement specific safety enhancement measures despite warnings that its hospital was vulnerable in the event of a hurricane; and (4) had a deficient “emergency command system” to ensure patient safety in the event of a catastrophe. Tenet’s settlement highlights potential ramifications for all hospital and other health care entities in failing to prepare for potential disasters that impact the public’s health.

Additional information regarding the case is available from the New York Times and Bloomberg.

This information was researched and prepared by Chase Millea, research assistant, Jalayne Arias, deputy director, and James G. Hodge, Jr., director, Network for Public Health Law – Western Region.

The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.
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