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What is Alameda Hospital’s Capacity for Disaster?

Addendum: As this article goes to press, we see that Alameda Hospital CEO Deborah Stebbins has responded in the local print newspaper about their disaster recovery plan. But she fails to explain how Alameda Hospital could respond to hundreds of injured Alameda residents in the event of a 6.9 magnitude earthquake, especially if several key staff members are trapped on the mainland and unable to get to the hospital.

We were pleased to read in the local weekly print newspaper that Alameda Hospital is finally breaking even. The last thing this city needs is a health care version of the Bureau of Electricity’s Telecom division. But assuming the hospital stays standing in the event of a major earthquake, do they have the capacity to handle all of Alameda’s injured?

If the rationale, as stated in the article, for taxpayers to continue subsidizing Alameda Hospital to the tune of roughly $6 million per year ($298 per parcel) is the threat of a major earthquake that severs access to hospitals on the mainland, then Alameda Hospital needs to prepare and publish a disaster plan and come clean with Alameda residents about their capacity to treat and care for hundreds of injured people in the event of a quake. If Alameda Hospital doesn’t have the necessary capabilities, then other arrangements need to be made by the City of Alameda to evacuate the injured.

At the December 2nd City Council meeting, City Staff gave a presentation on the proposed residential building soft-story ordinance wherein they reported a 62% chance of a major earthquake in the Bay Area within the next 30 years and that ABAG estimates that Alameda would have 7600 un-inhabitable housing units subsequent to a 6.9 magnitude quake on the Hayward fault. At that meeting, Mayor Johnson said that the soft story building question was the “Number one public safety issue in the City.” 7600 households translates into roughly 19,000 people, and if only 5% of them were injured and required treatment and hospitalization, that’s 950 people flooding into Alameda Hospital’s Emergency Room. And the hospital has only 135 beds. 63 people in the Bay area were killed and 3,757 were injured in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake whose epicenter was 50 miles south of San Francisco. A 6.9 quake on the Hayward fault – only 4 miles away from Alameda – can be expected to cause significant injuries in addition to property damage.

Does Alameda Hospital’s Emergency Room have the capacity to handle the injuries in Alameda resulting from a 6.9 magnitude quake on the Hayward fault? What, exactly, is Alameda Hospital’s capacity to handle the injured in a major disaster? Do they have a disaster plan to deal with a 6.9 quake on the Hayward fault? The Loma Prieta earthquake caused many fires after buildings collapsed – how does Alameda Hospital propose to treat burn victims if we’re cut-off from Oakland? Does the City of Alameda disaster response plan rely on Alameda Hospital alone? How would we evacuate from Alameda the injured that can’t be treated at Alameda Hospital? Do we have pre-existing arrangements with the National Guard? Let’s see a disaster plan from Alameda Hospital based on such a worst-case scenario. Are we kidding ourselves to think that Alameda Hospital is going to save us in the event of a disaster?

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