Earthquake Preparedness in Santa Cruz County

It’s been 26 years since the Loma Prieta earthquake, and the systems, services, and technologies that served Santa Cruz County during that time are ripe for re-examination. The Emergency Medical Care Commission, which advises our county supervisors on emergency medical care issues, has put together a subcommittee for Earthquake Emergency Preparedness. Response systems and protocols for earthquakes happening outside of our county still apply, so we will be looking at what we can do should another big earthquake hit inside Santa Cruz.

To create the strongest plan, the subcommittee will work with some assumptions about the imaginary quake. As of February, 2015, those assumptions include:

  • That roadway loss has isolated Santa Cruz County.
  • That telecommunications, including cell service and internet service do not exist.
  • That, as with the Loma Prieta quake, 60% of 911 calls for ambulance services will result in the caller having evacuated before the ambulance arrives.
  • That Santa Cruz County will not have ready access to services other than what already exist in the county.
  • That Fire will be too busy to assist in most cases.
  • That Police will be too busy to assist in most cases.

Areas we’ll be coming up with responses and systems for include:

  • Communications – how will Ambulance/Police/Fire dispatch handle medical injury calls, what will Medcom be tasked with?
  • Pre-hospital treatment
  • Triage
  • Supplies
  • Staffing
  • Service hand-off (housing, food, mental health, etc.)
  • Security for staff and resources
  • Scenario where operations are disrupted at Dominican Hospital or Watsonville
  • Managing multiple critical injuries
  • Transportation
  • How will we manage to acquire a ‘big-picture’ view of what’s happening in the County?

It’s likely that the subcommittee will begin by reviewing:

Other areas to be addressed later in the process will likely include:

  • Consumer education
  • Possible school drills

Finally, it is accepted that it would be a best practice to ensure that systems and protocols revolve around job functionality, and not specific persons.

If you have any questions or concerns you’d like to bring up regarding this subject, please email me at RobynMcIntyre at gmail dot com


The ACA’s Penalty Program for Patient Harm

Possible Contaminated Surfaces

Kaiser Health News published an article listing the 721 Hospitals penalized for patient safety. While this is interesting and probably good to know, it’s just a list. As a consumer of medical services, I would like to know which categories of Hospital Acquired Conditions these errors fell into. There’s a big difference between catching a cold in a hospital and getting bed sores. In addition, there’s no link in it to any information which might help with further data. The good news for us is that only one hospital in our county made it onto the list at all.

I went looking for more data on this subject, since it was all new to me. I found that the ACA (Affordable Care Act) has instituted three types of Medicare reimbursement penalty programs:

This is a lot of information to digest, but basically if a hospital does not score appropriately in these programs, it can be penalized a percentage of its CMS (Medicare/Medicaid) reimbursements. Since the programs are new, there isn’t enough data yet to tell whether the programs will be successful. When a retailer has an unsuccessful season or must raise its overhead, the losses end up getting passed to the consumer in the form of higher prices in order to keep the profit margins the same. Will hospitals do the same?

This Shot’s for You!

appointment for flu shot

You may have heard that this year’s flu shot is “not effective.” That is wrong. Here’s why (via CNN):

In February, a panel of experts decided on 3 strains of the virus to include in this year’s vaccine, based on data about the common strains circulating around the globe throughout the year. Some years the vaccine is a better match to the circulating strains than others.

It’s too late to create another version of the flu vaccine this year, Frieden said, because even with modern production technology, it typically takes about four months to produce the vaccine.

While this year’s version is not as protective against a mutated strain, it can still decrease the severity of illness caused by the virus. It can also protect against other circulating strains of the virus, which is why the CDC still recommends getting the vaccine.

If you haven’t gotten your flu shot, get it. The flu is already going around and you don’t want it!



This post was written on New Year’s Eve – please spare a thought tonight for our First Responders – don’t drink and drive! They will have their hands full as it is and you don’t need to be one of their customers!


I’ve been wanting to start this blog for a long time.

As the Consumer Representative on the Emergency Medical Care Commission, I want to share with the rest of the community what I learn from serving on this advisory board to the County Supervisors. In upcoming posts, I will write about the projects of the EMCC, the work being done in various areas of emergency medicine, including transport, clinics, and field exercises. I will include information about pending legislation that could affect emergency medical care and the Commission’s position on that legislation, if it has one. I’ll write about programs and initiatives within other agencies within the County, like the Aptos/La Selva Fire District’s “No More Falls” program and events like EMS Week in Santa Cruz, where we recognize the first responders and the lives they have saved.

Please note that I am not a medical professional and can offer no medical advice. Nor can I be an advocate for any individual. As the Consumer Representative on the Commission, it is my job to look at procedures and services with an eye to determining how well they serve our community and to speak up when I think it’s necessary. If you have questions about emergency medical services in Santa Cruz County, please feel free to contact me. I may not be able to answer your question, but I may be able to point you towards someone who can.