Scott Needle, MD, FAAP has been in solo pediatric practice in Bay St Louis, Mississippi since February 2004. He evacuated with his family to flee Katrina, but his office and home were both destroyed by 3 feet of water and debris. On October 1, 2005, he returned to the Gulf Coast, and for the next 3 months he was one of the few pediatricians and Vaccines for Children program providers in Hancock County. He has been interviewed in local and national media about improvising medical care in the disaster area and the effects of the hurricane on both local children and doctors.
A missing piece of disaster preparations, discovered through difficulty, was a concise guide specifically for pediatricians to lead them through the "before and after" of a disaster. As a result of difficult lessons learned and his own personal determination to spare other pediatricians similar experiences, Dr Needle authored a "Disaster Preparedness Plan for Pediatricians".
This plan was recently published by the MS Chapter AAP with support from the AAP Friends of Children Hurricane Relief Fund. On June 1, 2006, Dr Needle wrote "Today marks the start of the 2006 hurricane season. The [Mississippi] coast is still reeling from Katrina's destruction just nine months ago. Nevertheless, we must prepare for future disasters even as we continue recovering from the last one. One of Katrina's harshest lessons was the importance of a solid and comprehensive disaster plan. As pediatricians, we need to prepare ourselves and our practices so that we can better care for children during and after the next catastrophe. And make no mistake; Katrina will not be the last event of its kind. Even pediatricians north of the coast need to be ready - for tornadoes, pandemic flu, earthquakes, or even bioterrorism."
This preparedness handbook is targeted specifically to pediatricians, and draws upon the experiences of physicians, nurses, and families who witnessed Katrina first-hand, as well as input from other experts in preparedness. It opens with the words, "A work in progress.", and well it is as new technology and resources will further improve disaster preparedness. Each pediatrician will need to take the next step, to customize the plan to his or her particular situation.
Contents of the Disaster Preparedness Plan for Pediatricians include:
- Preparing the Office (structure itself, vaccine management, etc.)
- Medical Equipment and supplies
- Place of Service
- Power and Electricity
- Essential Documents
- Medical Records and Data Security
- Principles of Immediate Response
- Sample Checklist
Dr. Needle completed a recent letter to members of the MS Chapter with these words "Mississippians are strong and resilient, and we can turn the tragedy of last August into an opportunity to learn, lead, and prepare." Dr Needle has set an excellent example of resiliency and utilizing an opportunity to lead.
The members of the Mississippi Chapter extend their sincere thanks to the thousands of individuals, clinics, and other organizations as well as to the national AAP and its generous donors, for the financial support, well wishes, in-kind donations, calls, e-mails, and other expressions of concern. The outpouring has been very generous and has positively impacted many!