AMU Emergency Management Fire & EMS Original

Spotlight on Specific Populations: Renal Dialysis Patients

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Edge Contributor

The overall management and success of an emergency management program has many different facets.

Because emergency management is a government entity, officials must be familiar with the numerous federal, state and local policies that determine how these government programs are to be run.

Concepts of social equity and providing resources through the Americans with Disabilities Act need to be incorporated into all government programs because it is important to provide access to resources for everyone. Thus, it is particularly important to include vulnerable communities in emergency management programs. By doing so, emergency managers can stay current on governmental policies that make resources accessible to all.

There are many vulnerable populations that have special needs. Individuals with health problems require different types of resources to help them manage. One of these special communities consists of individuals suffering from renal disease and renal failure requiring regular dialysis. These patients are in a special situation when it comes to emergencies because they are dependent on renal dialysis for their survival.  So the support network needed for their dialysis treatments is of particular concern to emergency managers. Thus, creating a working network for these patients is essential in all emergency management planning.

Renal Dialysis Patients

Renal dialysis patients require treatments every two to three days, depending on their medical condition. Dialysis is a long process: The dialysis machine must be cleaned, tested and prepared regularly, and a dialysis-trained nurse must administer the treatment while also making sure the patient tolerates it well.

It is important to note that there is a nationwide network of renal dialysis centers. Nevertheless, some patients are unable to travel because of their medical condition and is too complicated to bring a dialysis machine to them.

Also, some patients may not be eligible for the more complicated peritoneal dialysis. Depending on the care they need, some patients will require ambulance transportation while others need only a wheelchair for transportation. The EMS industry therefore is closely tied to dialysis centers’ needs in transporting patients to them on a regular basis.

Vulnerable Communities

Dialysis patients are among the most vulnerable populations in a community. During disasters they require more attention and more resources. Providing a network to replace what they are already dependent on becomes a matter of life and death. Emergency managers need to contemplate how they will help these patients, how they will manage the various resources needed to keep these people on dialysis, and how they will eliminate as much disruption as they can during their overall dialysis treatments.

Emergency managers need to know the directors of renal dialysis centers in their jurisdictions and to determine what renal dialysis patients need. Without a solid understanding of their various needs, it is difficult to map out all of the assistance networks for these situations. It is also difficult to contemplate how to manage dialysis treatments when there is no power, but it is essential to plan for various alternative mechanisms needed to keep treatments going.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Secretary & Chair of the TEMS Committee with the International Public Safety Association and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. Prior to teaching, she worked for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C., and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. Passionate about the policy issues surrounding emergency management and emergency medical services, Allison often researches, writes and advocates about these issues. Allison is an emergency medical technician and holds four master’s degrees.

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