Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State is launching a statewide emergency tracking system to ensure the safety of patients and residents when healthcare and human services facilities are forced to evacuate as a result of a natural disaster.
The New York State Evacuation of Facilities in Disasters System (NYS e-FINDS) is a secure, confidential, fast and easy-to-use system to provide real-time access to patient locations. The system will be in place for the 2013 hurricane season, with training for providers beginning next week.
In the event of an emergency, it is vital that family members, hospitals and nursing home staff can quickly find loved ones and patients if evacuations occur, Governor Cuomo said. Protecting the safety of vulnerable populations is always our top priority and this new system will serve as a critical emergency resource for all major health care and human services facilities.
During Superstorm Sandy, more than 13,000 patients and residents were evacuated from State-regulated and State-run facilities, including more than 7,100 from hospitals and nursing homes. When these storms struck, there was no statewide system in place to track vulnerable patients and residents who had to be transferred to alternative locations due to flooding, power outages or damage to facilities.
NYS e-FINDS (http://nysandyhelp.ny.gov/e-FINDS) will provide patient tracking to hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities overseen by the Department of Health; state developmental centers and many certified residential homes overseen by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities; residential treatment programs overseen by the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services; state psychiatric facilities and licensed residential programs overseen by the Office of Mental Health; supportive housing overseen by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and juvenile justice facilities operated by the Office of Children and Family Services.
Under this new system, all facilities will use barcode wristbands pre-printed with the facility name for all patients and facility residents, except for facilities such as substance abuse treatment programs where confidentiality requires that facility names be excluded. Patient and resident locations can be updated and tracked using hand-held scanners, mobile apps, or paper tracking (if power and/or phones are out of service).
The establishment of NYS e-FINDS follows the recommendation of the NYS Ready and Respond Commissions, and was based on close collaboration with outside organizations, including the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA).
Kenneth E. Raske, President of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said: New Yorks hospital community strongly supports the development of a patient tracking system that will improve the evacuation process and ensure that family members and key response agencies can track the location of patients during emergencies. We applaud New York State for its leadership in analyzing the regions response to Superstorm Sandy and identifying ways to improve evacuations, the safety of those sheltering in place, and the ability to protect our most vulnerable populations.
Daniel Sisto, President of the Healthcare Association of New York State, said: "The response of the provider community to Super Storm Sandy was historic in its magnitude and demonstrated again the irreplaceable role played by our care delivery system, especially in times of disaster. Notwithstanding this incredible response, we learned things that can be improved upon; and, regrettably, we learned again that there will always be a potential crisis for which we must always be prepared. We therefore applaud the Governor and the Department of Health for creating this initiative that will help us respond in the future with even greater coordination and effectiveness."
Harvey Rosenthal, Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, said: NYS e-Finds will provide a state-of-the-art electronic method to help ensure that New Yorkers with disabilities continue to be connected to vital services and supports that are especially critical in times of disaster. This very smart and strong response can give us all some greater confidence in our ability to respond and provide continuity of care to our community members during such emergencies.
State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., said, Patients and health facility residents are our primary concern when a disaster occurs and it is imperative that we be able to know their exact location even amidst the chaos when patients and health facility residents need to be relocated due to damage and power outages. Governor Cuomo has taken decisive action in the wake of natural disasters to improve our States emergency preparedness and response capabilities, and the NYS e-FINDS is an important tool that will greatly enhance patient safety when an emergency situation occurs.
New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jerome M. Hauer, said: "By implementing NYS e-FINDS, Governor Cuomo has applied a sensible and critically important mechanism for tracking patients during emergencies, which is another level of preparedness that will contribute to the safety and security of our state's most vulnerable population during events such as Superstorm Sandy."
Kristin M. Woodlock, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, said: The Office of Mental Health is committed to the safety of children and adults who receive treatment in our hospitals. During times of emergencies our care will be enhanced through this confidential, reliable protocol.
Kristin M. Proud, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, said: This new system will help ensure the safety of vulnerable populations who are forced into shelters because of an event such as Superstorm Sandy. We have seen first-hand the obstacles of serving New Yorkers in these emergencies and are confident that this system will address these challenges as well as help other family members stay aware of their loved ones situations.
Courtney Burke, Commissioner of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, said: Events like Superstorm Sandy have taught us that there is no such thing as being too prepared. OPWDD is pleased to be part of this initiative and we are grateful that Governor Cuomo is taking this important step to further ensure the health and safety of the individuals we serve.
Gladys Carrin, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, said: During a major weather event and or unforeseeable crisis, the patient and resident tracking system will significantly bolster the states ability to respond and address the needs of individuals in our care or custody. Access to such critical medical information is not a luxury, its a necessity and OCFS stands ready to implement the system for future events.
Arlene Gonzlez-Snchez, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), said: In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, OASAS and our healthcare partners recognized that we needed a system to better account for displaced patients. This new electronic patient and resident tracking system will enable OASAS to better account for the whereabouts, care and well-being of our clients during the immediate aftermath of a disaster.
More information about NYS e-FINDS is available at: http://nysandyhelp.ny.gov/e-FINDS