By Brandon Stokes | Published November 22, 2022
The goal after any disaster-related event in a medical facility is to make repairs quickly and get the business back up and running again. And while our instinct may be to look at the surface level of the space and equipment for any glaring damage, the safety of a business’ staff and patients relies on a more thorough understanding of the intricacies of medical equipment and its materials.
When equipment that is directly related to a patient’s health is exposed during a major event or disaster, OSHA consistently recommends replacement of many items. But there are times when repair can and should be considered, with the same end goal in mind.
The ultimate question for every medical equipment owner following a water or fire loss is: Should equipment be repaired or replaced? You will also need to ask yourself: Is the equipment yours or are there equipment leasing vendors involved that should be handling their particular equipment?
7 Considerations for the Repair vs. Replace Conversation
How can you determine which equipment can be repaired versus what needs to be replaced? Here are seven considerations experts consider when evaluating a damaged space.
- Unique equipment regulations and licensing codes by state and municipality. Dental and healthcare offices contain an array of medical equipment. In most states, high-complexity or radiation-generating equipment such as X-ray machines have licensing requirements. When evaluating equipment after a major event or exposure, it’s important to understand the state regulations and licensing codes that apply to each piece of equipment. This ensures operational and safety standards are being followed.
- Sanitation and health concerns. Most medical equipment that comes in contact with patients operate off of one of three infrastructure systems: air, water, or suction lines. Even though it can be difficult to know if these systems have been affected after a major event, it is crucial for the safety of staff and patients that these lines and the appropriate filters be evaluated, cleaned, or sometimes replaced. These internal components are often overlooked but must be sanitized and inspected to confirm they are working correctly before putting the equipment they support back into service.
- Patient charts and records. Most states still require patient files to be stored for up to seven years before disposal. For those medical practices that have yet to convert to digital records, water-logged or soot/smoke damaged patient files must be recreated into a different format after a disaster. Patient information is also subject to strict privacy laws so it’s important to follow HIPAA guidelines to maintain compliance during the recovery process.
- Consumable goods and medical supplies. It might seem clear that any opened or exposed medical supplies need to be discarded after a disaster, however the process by which you remove contaminated supplies and restock is equally important. Make sure you are not cross-contaminating old supplies with new materials and examine the packaging of all supplies to ensure a strong seal. This includes the obvious gloves and masks and extends to less-frequently used items such as dental molds and pastes.
- Narcotics. There are federal requirements for the safe removal of all narcotics. For example, a key element to storing and handling narcotics is temperature. If a power outage or fire caused temperature fluctuation in the medical space, that needs to be taken into consideration during the recovery process. Safe disposal rules of these medications are FDA regulated, so be sure these are followed. You also must factor in how to control the climate during mitigation.
- Cleaning equipment. Similar to heat sensitive narcotics, cleaning equipment contains different types of materials that can weaken during major temperature changes. Think of seals, rubber hoses, and fittings in the equipment used in a dental office. The way temperature affects these components may not be visible to the naked eye, so you need to break down the equipment to evaluate which subsurface items may have been damaged.
- Digital web of equipment. As medical offices become more digitally intelligent, the invisible links between pieces of equipment are equally critical to an office’s operation as the equipment itself. After a major event, these communication links may be broken. Understanding how everything is internet-connected and networking together is important when identifying the faulty link within a chain of numerous systems. Just because you have a failure at one level, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s that specific piece of equipment that is broken.
After a major disaster, not every issue is what it seems at the surface level. The nuances and secondary damage to equipment is just as important to recovery — and this can be overwhelming. But with the right team of consultants and estimators, recovery doesn’t have to be so scary.
RMC’s experts can help identify priority issues and hidden risks, and our relationships with equipment and component parts manufacturers can maximize the efficiency of the repair and replacement process.
For more information, contact Brandon Stokes and RMC Group.
This information is intended for informational purposes only. Each restoration project has unique properties and must be evaluated individually by knowledgeable consultants. Additionally, cutting samples of roof assemblies should be performed by qualified professionals and in some instances approved by the roofing manufacturer. RMC Group is not liable for any loss or damage arising out of or in connection with the use of this information.