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Preparing for the Great American Eclipse

Map of the United States showing path of solar eclipse
NASA

As much of the United States is getting ready for the total solar eclipse on August 21, HCA Healthcare-affiliated hospitals along the path of totality are preparing too.

HCA Healthcare Today talked with Michael Wargo, assistant vice president for preparedness and response from the company’s Enterprise Preparedness and Emergency Operations department to learn more about how hospitals are preparing for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Why do hospitals need to prepare for the total solar eclipse?

Several HCA Healthcare affiliate hospitals are located within the path of totality – the geographic band approximately 70 miles wide that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina – where the sun will appear blocked completely by the moon, most notably Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and the TriStar Health hospitals located in the Nashville, Tennessee-area.

Communities across the path of totality are expecting larger than usual numbers of people traveling in and out of the area and large gatherings of people in public places to view the eclipse. Anytime hundreds or thousands of people congregate outside in the summer, hospitals anticipate increased emergency and urgent care visits for overheating, dehydration, sunburn and other heat-related illnesses. In addition, the extra cars on the roadways may lead to more car crashes and people needing lifesaving trauma care.

How are HCA Healthcare affiliate hospitals getting ready for the event?

While this is the first time our hospitals have prepared for a total solar eclipse, emergency and disaster preparation and planning is something hospitals do all the time, especially for large outdoor summer events.

HCA Healthcare affiliate hospitals have comprehensive preparedness plans to account for different types of emergencies, and we’ve been reviewing and refreshing those plans to help ensure organizational readiness. For instance, some hospitals are adjusting staffing so they’ll be prepared to deliver high-quality care to larger numbers of people. Others are collecting alternate methods of reaching on-call clinicians in case cell phone coverage is spotty due to the increased population in the area that day.

People traveling or located in communities with HCA Healthcare affiliate hospitals can rest assured that our facilities will be prepared to treat them if they need care before, during or after the eclipse.

What’s your department’s role in helping hospitals with preparation?

We are always here to support our local hospitals in emergency and disaster preparations and planning. We take a coordinating and a strategic role to help ensure they have the resources and information that they need to be successful.  In the event of a critical incident, the local facility and division will respond and maintain incident command of the situation.  At the Enterprise Emergency Operations level, we are a strategic coordination group that can access regional or national resources, such as pharmaceutical cache or mass evacuation resources if needed.  Our mission is to ensure the local facilities have the support needed to continue safe uninterrupted patient care and business operations.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 186 hospitals and more than 2,000 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our approximately 275,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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