Pacific Northwest fires have drawn attention to our fragility and susceptibility to alteration in something as basic as our air supply. Contaminants vary from event to event and our vulnerability varies from person to person. It’s safe to assume that toxicity, density, and length of exposure to the contaminant increases medical risk factors in direct relation to the health status of the person breathing the air.
Typically, a forest fire produces carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and other organic material, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals and thousands of other compounds depending on the uniqueness of the burning matter and surrounding conditions. The toxic effects of all dissipate with wind and weather but as we all witnessed lately the elements can still deliver sufficient toxic amounts to cause problems that are very real.
All of us probably experienced the obvious irritating effects of the elements in the air. External eye irritation and redness and perhaps a runny nose reflect the local inflammatory response to these agents in ambient air. As in all medical matters, if there are pre-existing conditions affecting eyes or nasal passages, the smoke will make them worse and require medical attention, but the vast majority of people simply have to put up with it.
The effects can be more serious if the exposure is more intense or prolonged or involves an individual whose health is compromised by acute or chronic unrelated conditions. The most obvious example would be individuals with heart and lung disease. The ability to breath easily and effectively is most imperative in these individuals. If their “work of breathing” is increased, or their ability to oxygenate or ventilate is compromised by irritation of upper and lower airways, things can get out of hand quickly and require timely intervention by medically trained individuals. It’s safe to say that any patient with substantial heart or lung ailment is at risk, i.e. not just asthmatics or coronary artery disease patients.
So how do we address this problem?
Anticipate. Check weather reports and Air Quality Indices when fires are ongoing.
Prepare. Make contingency plans to avoid pollutants. Stay indoors as much as possible with air filters in place. Do not plan prolonged exercise outdoors until the Air Quality Index allows.
Be practical. If you cannot avoid exposure, wear a mask. To be effective, the mask has to fit proper and it must be designed to filter out particulate matter and fumes and gasses. The P95 mask is appropriate.
Be careful. If you have chronic lung or heart disease do not forget your meds or oxygen if prescribed.
Be smart. If you experience increased cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or sputum production call your Healthcare Provider and avoid more serious problems that can be avoided.
“Of course, this level of recognition is very significant for TVHC. More importantly, such stellar results should further strengthen community confidence in the excellent care you receive at TVHC. We’re one of two Idaho rural hospitals to achieve this status, and I can assure you that every single member of the TVHC team has worked very hard to bring home the NOSORH Award,” says Keith Gnagey, CEO.
The rankings are determined each year using iVantage Health Analytics’ Hospital Strength INDEX®, the industry’s most comprehensive and objective assessment of rural hospital performance. The Hospital Strength INDEX captures performance metrics for all rural and Critical Access Hospitals. Leveraging data from public data sources, INDEX aggregates data from more than 50 individual metrics into three major categories and eight pillars to arrive at a single, measurable score.
TVHC Quality Manager Susan Kay, R.N., notes that hospital leadership has chosen to use the 90th percentile of U.S. hospital quality metrics as an operational goal. Many hospitals publicize comparisons based on the 70th or 80th percentile.
“We’ve set a high standard for quality care. We want people to know that our community hospital believes that what we do today should be better than yesterday, and what we do tomorrow should be better than today. TVHC is truly redefining common perceptions about small, rural hospitals,” says Kay.
Michael Topchik, National Leader of the Chartis Center for Rural Health adds, “These leaders serve as a benchmark for other rural facilities as they strive to achieve similar results and provide a blueprint for how to successfully run a hospital and serve their communities amidst today’s uncertainty and mounting pressures.”
About NOSORH The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) was established in 1995 to assist State Offices of Rural Health in their efforts to improve access to, and the quality of, health care for America’s 61 million rural citizens. NOSORH enhances the capacity of SORHs to do this by supporting the development of state and community rural health leaders; creating and facilitating state, regional and national partnerships that foster information sharing and spur rural health-related programs/activities; and enhancing access to quality healthcare services in rural communities.
About The Chartis Group The Chartis Group (Chartis) is a comprehensive advisory and analytics services dedicated to the healthcare industry. Chartis provides strategic planning, value-based care, advanced performance, informatics and technology consulting services as well as leading-edge decision support tools to the country’s leading healthcare providers. The Chartis Center for Rural Health (CCRH) was formed in 2016 to offer tailored services, performance management solutions, research and education to rural hospitals and facilities. Learn more at Chartisrural.com.
About iVantage Health Analytics, a subsidiary of The Chartis Group
A subsidiary of The Chartis Group, iVantage Health Analytics (iVantage) is a leading provider of healthcare analytic and performance management analytic tools. Health system and hospital leadership teams across the country rely on the company’s software and services to deliver customized insights on clinical and financial performance, strategic planning, market assessment and payment optimization. iVantage’s analytics are the basis of continuing thought leadership and insight in the areas of healthcare policy and research.