, Volume 82, Issue 3, pp 378-388

Health care workers’ ability and willingness to report to duty during catastrophic disasters

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Abstract

Catastrophic disasters create surge capacity needs for health care systems. This is especially true in the urban setting because the high population density and reliance on complex urban infrastructures (e.g., mass transit systems and high rise buildings) could adversely affect the ability to meet surge capacity needs. To better understand responsiveness in this setting, we conducted a survey of health care workers (HCWs) (N=6,428) from 47 health care facilities in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan region to determine their ability and willingness to report to work during various catastrophic events. A range of facility types and sizes were represented in the sample. Results indicate that HCWs were most able to report to work for a mass casualty incident (MCI) (83%), environmental disaster (81%), and chemical event (71%) and least able to report during a smallpox epidemic (69%), radiological event (64%), sudden acute respiratory distress syndrome (SARS) outbreak (64%), or severe snow storm (49%). In terms of willingness, HCWs were most willing to report during a snow storm (80%), MCI (86%), and environmental disaster (84%) and least willing during a SARS outbreak (48%), radiological event (57%), smallpox epidemic (61%), and chemical event (68%). Barriers to ability included transportation problems, child care, eldercare, and pet care obligations. Barriers to willingness included fear and concern for family and self and personal health problems. The findings were consistent for all types of facilities. Importantly, many of the barriers identified are amenable to interventions.