Few studies have examined post-disaster coping abilities of health facilities and hospitals. On 15 August 2007, a 7.9 (Richter) earthquake struck off the western coast of Peru near the Department of Ica that devastated the healthcare infrastructure. The impact of the earthquake on the health facilities in the four most affected provinces (Cañete, Chincha, Ica, and Pisco), the risk factors associated with the damages incurred, ability to provide services, and humanitarian assistance received were assessed.
A stratified, systematic sampling design was used to interview a sample of 40 health facilities. The most senior healthcare provider at each facility was interviewed about the facility's experience with service provision following the earthquake.
Sixty percent of the facilities reported some damage due to the earthquake; four (10%) were completely destroyed. A total of 78% of the facilities reported providing medical care within the first 48 hours after the earthquake and public facilities were more likely to remain open than were private facilities (p = 0.030). Facilities with an emergency response plan were more likely to provide services than were those without a plan (p = 0.043). Six months after the earthquake, similar numbers of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) patients were receiving treatment at the sampled facilities as prior to the earthquake, and no difficulties were reported in obtaining medications. Some form of assistance, most commonly medications, was received by 60% of the facilities; receipt of assistance was not associated with the facility type, location, damage incurred, or post-disaster service provision.
Response plans were an important factor in the ability to provide services immediately following an earthquake. While a facility's ability to provide services can be determined by structural impacts of the precipitating event, response plans help the staff to continue to provide services and care for affected populations, and appropriately arrange referrals when care cannot be provided at the facility. The findings suggest that health facilities in disasterprone areas should invest in developing and implementing disaster response plans in order to improve health service provision capacity during disasters.
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