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Imaging departments stay afloat during hurricanes

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | November 06, 2017
Business Affairs Risk Management
From the November 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

She says that imaging, particularly the portable X-ray, played a significant role in assessing and treating storm-related injuries.

“What we saw was a lot of orthopedic injuries from people walking in water and trying to do things they normally don’t do fast to get out of trouble,” she said. “I saw quite a bit of X-rays I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”

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Service providers and mobile imaging companies tried to remain in contact with customers throughout Irma and Harvey. But, for the most part, did not return units or deploy extras until after the storms had passed and damage could be assessed.

Damage control
Overall, medical facilities confronted with Irma and Harvey did a remarkable job minimizing damage and downtime, but the hurricanes still left their calling cards. One provider in Houston faces the challenge of getting its in-house MR system back up and running after it sustained water damage from Harvey.

The task could take about a month and a half, but while that system undergoes repairs, a mobile unit deployed by Shared Imaging is providing interim imaging capabilities.

The company has also deployed two additional units to Texas, according to Larry Siebs, the president and CEO of Shared Imaging, and has retrieved 11 units that had been stationed there.

But the need for interim imaging solutions has not been widespread following Harvey and Irma.

“I am not aware of any mobile trailers that have been brought in because of the hurricane,” T.J. Webb, a director of service for GE Healthcare in Florida, told HCB News three weeks following Irma. “That said, this would probably be the week we would start seeing systems with ongoing issues and facilities that may explore that alternative.”

One reason for a possible delay in seeking assistance is damage to roads. With many routes closed, blocked off by debris or destroyed, mobile imaging units are unable to access destinations safely.

In addition to this, it takes time to assess hurricane damage and decide whether an interim solution is necessary. Some facilities are only now opening their doors and taking stock of the situation.

“It’s not even like you could bring in something that would make a difference because they’re not even functional,” said Shared Medical Services’ Zahn.

While Siebs contends there will always be a need for mobile imaging units during disaster relief efforts, he says improvements in hospital infrastructure and the relocation of imaging departments and equipment to higher floors have reduced the need for units over the years.

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