Damaging Earthquakes and Their Implications for the Transfusion Medicine Function of the Health care System on Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Date

2013-04-29

Authors

Sanderson, Bruce Owen

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Abstract

Greater Victoria, a conurbation of about 335,000 people located in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, is subject to significant seismic hazards. The major regional seismic factor is the offshore Juan de Fuca tectonic plate, subducting beneath North America along the 1,100 km-long Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), a megathrust fault. This environment generates three types of potentially damaging earthquakes—shallow, subduction, and deep. This research examines how the Transfusion Medicine (TM) component within transfusing facilities in Greater Victoria and the balance of Vancouver Island might function following these types of earthquakes. A shallow earthquake of magnitude (M)7 or greater that occurs near enough could heavily damage critical infrastructure in Greater Victoria. Decisions regarding the alternatives of (a) rapidly relocating a facility for storing and/or processing blood products within or near Greater Victoria or (b) transporting people injured in an earthquake to transfusing hospitals in or beyond Greater Victoria, or (c) both (a) and (b), may need to be made within the first few hours following a locally destructive earthquake. A subduction event (M8 to 9.2) in the CSZ could reduce or halt production of blood products in nearby Vancouver, diminish the supply of stored blood in southwestern coastal British Columbia, and sharply increase demand for blood products. Post-subduction-event conditions would likely result in a temporary shortage of blood products in at least two regional health authorities, and would test the response of a few key related functions within smaller, more remote health care facilities. A subduction event also would impact ground transportation routes, airports, and wharves, making the transportation of blood products to and around Vancouver Island more difficult. The researcher interviewed several professionals whose work supports the blood contingency emergency response by the Canadian Blood Services, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), and the British Columbia Ministry of Health, to obtain information that could help maintain the TM function in post-quake circumstances. To prepare informants to answer questions regarding the health care implications of these earthquakes, the researcher generated--per earthquake type--order of magnitude estimates of the numbers of hospitalizations that would likely result in Greater Victoria or/and Vancouver Island. The study examines the inventorying and transportation of blood products, some communication, decision-making, and blood product distribution considerations—plus the hazard mitigation and vulnerability reduction aspects—that could be included in an earthquake-specific blood contingency plan for VIHA transfusing facilities. It also considers how VIHA could sustain the function of the TM Laboratory role within transfusing hospitals during post-earthquake circumstances in which some of their facilities for storing, monitoring, analyzing, or transfusing blood products are inoperable. The risks of damaging earthquakes, and accompanying tsunamis affecting populated areas and health system assets in coastal British Columbia, are real. Implementing the recommendations of this study may help various players involved in the regional processing, distribution and allocation of blood products to: (a) define a more efficient response to earthquake impacts upon their operations, (b) reduce injury to people and damage to crucial equipment used in the health system, and ultimately, (c) save lives.

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Keywords

earthquake, tsunami, health system disaster response, blood supply, hospital blood bank, transfusion medicine, emergency management, health care business continuity

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