Washington DC (SPX) May 09, 2008
In an unprecedented initiative, US and Canadian experts have developed a comprehensive framework to optimize and manage critical care resources during times of pandemic outbreaks or other mass critical care disasters.
The new proposal suggests legally protecting clinicians who follow accepted protocols for the allocation of scarce resources when providing care during mass critical care events.
The framework represents a major step forward to uniformly deliver sufficient critical care during catastrophes and maximize the number of victims who have access to potential life-saving interventions.
"Most countries, including the United States, have insufficient critical care resources to provide timely, usual care for a surge of critically ill and injured victims," said Asha Devereaux, MD, FCCP, Task Force for Mass Critical Care.
"If a mass casualty critical care event occurred tomorrow, many people with clinical conditions that are survivable under usual health-care system circumstances may have to forgo life-sustaining interventions due to deficiencies in supply, staffing, or space."
As a result, the Task Force for Mass Critical Care developed an emergency mass critical care (EMCC) framework for hospitals and public health authorities aimed to maximize effective critical care surge capacity.
Published as a supplement to the May issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), Definitive Care for the Critically Ill During a Disaster offers guidance for hospitals, medical professionals, and public health authorities on how to prepare for and provide essential critical care when the need for critical care resources far exceeds availability.
Expanding Critical Care Resources for a Disaster
Suggested surge capacity requirements include stockpiling medical equipment, including mechanical ventilators; optimizing medication; designating auxiliary critical care areas; and augmenting critical care staff.
Trigger Event and Process
Critical Care Resource Allocation
- The hospital triage officer/team will assess and prioritize all patients for receipt of scarce interventions using objective medical criteria.
- Palliative care for all patients will be a priority. However, patients will be ineligible for scarce critical care interventions if they have extreme organ failure and/or severe chronic illness with a short life expectancy.
- Critical care resources will not be preferentially distributed to any specific population group.
- Decisions regarding resource allocation will be documented, remain transparent, occur uniformly across all affected regions, and subject to rigorous quality assurance.
"Ideally, having an emergency mass critical care plan in place would prevent hospitals from needing to ration critical care resources," said Lewis Rubinson, MD, PhD, Task Force for Mass Critical Care. "However, if the surge capacity is exceeded, the use of emergency mass critical care triage and rationing will help local health-care facilities minimize mortality and optimize survival."
To reassure critical care providers and ensure consistent allocation of critical care resources, the task force advocates for legal protection of health-care professionals and institutions that follow accepted EMCC protocols while providing care during times that require critical care resource rationing. Government endorsement of a protocol for EMCC triage and resource allocation ideally would shield practitioners and institutions acting in good faith from liability.
"The new EMCC framework provides a much needed foundation for disaster preparedness in the critical care setting. Suggestions proposed by the task force will facilitate ongoing discussions and allow for further input from the disaster planning community," said Alvin V. Thomas, Jr., MD, FCCP, President of the ACCP. "Hospitals, communities, and government agencies must take the next steps to modify framework principles and implement them in critical care environments."
Task Force for Mass Critical Care
The task force also includes members of the Critical Care Collaborative (CCC), a group of medical professional societies who collectively represent more than 100,000 health-care professionals. Members of the CCC include the ACCP, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, Society of Hospital Medicine, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
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