Healthcare facilities lack appropriate equipment, supplies to manage emergency situations: Report

Published on June 2, 2010 at 4:03 AM · No Comments

Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority data shows that patients experiencing a life-threatening situation in a healthcare facility may be more at risk due to a lack of correct equipment and supplies readily available to adequately treat the emergency

Healthcare facilities sometimes lack the appropriate equipment and supplies to successfully manage an emergency in their facility in a timely manner, according to data released today by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority and published in the June Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory

The Authority conducted a data review over a 12-month reporting period (2008) identifying 56 reports that highlighted emergency or rapid response situations in which supplies or equipment were missing or outdated.

While the locations of these events varied, as did the types of medical emergencies, a common theme in the reports was a lack of appropriate equipment and supplies to successfully manage the emergency in a timely manner. Thirty-five reports referenced issues with emergency carts and 21 referenced issues with missing supplies or malfunctioning equipment during an emergency situation.

"The Authority's data shows that some healthcare facilities are not always ready when a life-threatening emergency occurs to a patient in their facility," Mike Doering, executive director of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority said. "There are guidelines facilities can adopt to help facilities prepare for a medical emergency so that if one occurs, the best possible life-saving techniques and equipment will be available to try to save the patient."

Some descriptions of reports and the care areas where the emergencies occurred are listed in the Advisory showing the wide range of emergency situations and locations. They include:

Report 1: [Location: Emergency Department]

During rapid response, a patient needed to [have a tube placed in him] and the intubation box had no stylet [a slender surgical probe]. The RN needed to go to another unit to get a box with a stylet. The patient's intubation was delayed five to eight minutes.

Report 2: [Location: Medical/Surgical/Cardiac Intermediate Unit]

Code was called for this patient. [Staff] did not call to have the [code] cart replaced until [late afternoon]. Cart was not cleaned up before the exchange, and used needles and a blade were left lying on top the cart. Medications were used also. [There was a] safety concern with a partial cart on the floor for five hours.

Report 3: [Location: Medical Intensive Care Unit]

The patient's heart rate was greater than 160 beats per minute and sustained. Following American Heart Association advanced cardiac life support guidelines, adenosine was [administered intravenously]. There was not adequate stock of adenosine in crash cart to give recommended protocol. The patient was transferred to the ICU and cardioverted [shocked]. A normal heart rhythm was obtained.

Report 4: [Location: Outpatient Area]

[The patient] became unresponsive. The rapid response team was called. The code cart was brought, but then taken away. Supplies to treat the patient, including intravenous (IV) supplies were not available.

"Along with pointing out the obvious that healthcare facilities are not always prepared for an emergency situation, some reports also show that hospital staffs are reporting that crash carts are not adequately supplied even if an event did not occur where a patient was involved," Doering said. "These reports give all healthcare facilities the opportunity to take a second look at their rapid response protocols to ensure everything that can be done is being done to provide a positive outcome in an emergency situation."

The three distinct factors of rapid response preparedness that must be addressed in almost every clinical area include: 1) quick access to working equipment and up-to-date supplies; 2) knowledgeable and trained staff to manage the clinical emergency; and 3) after systems are in place, maintaining a state of readiness to manage a clinical emergency at any time.

Along with more strategies to improve rapid response preparedness, the Authority offers a sample checklist for facilities to readily implement the first factor. For a copy of the sample checklist or more information on rapid response preparedness, go to the Advisory article, "Clinical Emergency: Are You Ready in Any Setting?" at the Authority's website           

The Authority's quarterly 2010 June Advisory contains other articles developed from data submitted about real events that have occurred in Pennsylvania's healthcare facilities. The articles also provide advice and prevention strategies for facilities to implement within their own institutions. Highlights include:

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