The horrific events of September 11, 2001, have caused all individuals and institutions to step back and evaluate their ability to respond to a crisis of previously unimaginable proportions. A media search and incident review of Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care records confirms that no event in collective memory has had the potential to yield so many hospital patients.
This article describes the legislative framework and process by which the ministry either leads or supports an emergency response. Within this context, the authors analyze the early preparations of the ministry and the Ontario hospital system as they readied to accept unknown numbers of patients from the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. While the focus of the article is on hospitals, the authors also consider the readiness actions taken by the system as a whole, including emergency services, CritiCall and the Ontario Hospital Association. The role of support agencies in helping Ontario's hospitals respond to the crisis is also examined.
Whether the preparations undertaken and the commitments made by Ontario's hospitals and other health system partners would have been sufficient remains untested at this time. However, a careful review of emergency response strategies in order to identify any planning gaps is only prudent. This analysis concludes with a discussion of what has been learned and some thoughts on how those lessons can assist the ministry and our hospitals to remain prepared.
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