Grant Funds Emergency Equipment for Shore Health System Hospitals

Shore Health System received a grant of over $200,000 from the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Preparedness and Emergency Response. The funds have been used to purchase safety equipment for The Memorial Hospital at Easton and Dorchester General Hospital.

The HPP grant funded 18 EVAC+CHAIR® emergency wheelchairs. The chairs, which are lightweight and portable, have been installed in the stairwells of each hospital for use in transporting immobile patients, visitors and staff down stairwells during an emergency when elevators are inoperable.

“These chairs were designed to transport people who are unable to walk down stairs in the event of a fire or other disasters when elevators are out of service,” says Gary Poole, director of safety and security for Shore Health System. “This model was far superior to other models that we looked at. Using an EVAC+CHAIR prevents injury to our staff and to our patients when taking the stairs is the only option for evacuating the building.”

An EVAC+CHAIR can hold up to 500 pounds. The individual being transported in the chair wears seat belts around the waist and the torso. The back wheels of the chair fold up so that the chair can glide down stairs on a revolving belt system. The belt adjusts so that the speed of descent matches the weight of the person being moved. A specially designed braking system stops the chair when the operator needs to stop. On flat ground, when the back wheels are in place, the chair converts to a four-wheeled wheelchair for easy movement through corridors and into elevators when they are once again in use.

“Now that we have the EVAC+CHAIR emergency wheelchairs installed at Memorial Hospital and Dorchester General Hospital, we will be training nursing, security and plant operations staff how to use them,” Poole says. “We will also use them during fire drills so that everyone trained has an opportunity to practice using the chairs.”

The HPP grant was used to purchase other supplies and equipment that will further enhance Shore Health System’s ability to respond if natural disasters or other emergencies strike the Mid-Shore region.

Each hospital is equipped with handheld computers that can be used to track the movement of patients during a community-wide disaster. “When we participated in the statewide pandemic flu drill in 2007, we used a paper system to keep track of patients when they arrived at the hospital. We saw that this system was cumbersome and open to errors,” Poole explains. “These wireless computers will enable us to scan into our computer system patient information from bar coded identification tags, such as the ones assigned by emergency medical services. We can also scan in personal information from drivers’ licenses and other forms of identification, which saves time when collecting information for large groups of people.”

Other items purchased with the HPP grant include a water purifier system, which can purify contaminated water at a rate of 60 gallons per hour; handheld portable carboxyhemoglobin monitors, a non-invasive finger probe used to test the amount of carbon monoxide an individual has inhaled during a fire; air conditioners and heaters for emergency tents; and two digital video recorders, which will be used to store images taken with the hospitals’ security surveillance cameras.