The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association’s emergency preparedness program was put in place after 9/11 to help hospitals and health systems coordinate, respond and prepare for disasters.
“We use funding from the federal government to coordinate a response to a wide variety of disasters,” says the program’s director, Kelly Parker. “From flooding to mass casualty incidents to any kind of terrorist attack.” To, of course, global pandemics.
“When I told people what I did before, no one knew what I was talking about,” Parker says. Once the pandemic hit, though, “They’re like ‘Oh, I get it now.’”
Even with a designated system in place to handle these kinds of emergencies, plus a strong partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, Parker says the first few months of the response were “extremely challenging.”
“From the middle of March to the end of June it was such a rapid onslaught of information and changing situations that trying to educate people on how our program works along with just responding to evolving situations was tough,” says Parker. “We would get information at 9 a.m. and by 11 a.m. that was irrelevant.”
Parker says although she always wanted to get into health care, she just didn’t expect to be on the business side.
“At this level, our work is not always seen, but it’s designed to help every single person in the Commonwealth regardless of their situation,” she says. “I’ve come back to that a lot during the pandemic response, looking at the bigger picture of what we do and how it helps.”