Flood Information for Healthcare Providers

What you should do

Healthcare practitioners in independent practices that are directly or indirectly impacted by flooding should take the following precautions to ensure safe public access and service delivery:

  • Confirm occupancy approval with local authorities prior to initiating flood clean-up activities or service to the general public and patients;
  • Use safe and appropriate cleaning techniques when you and/or your employees clean up office and client areas; (more)
  • Confirm availability and safety of public water access; (more)
  • Assure patients and staff do not have to walk through floodwaters to get into the building.

Medical concerns following flooding

The most common medical consequences of natural disasters such as floods include:

  • Injuries
  • GI illness
  • Respiratory illness
  • Rash illness
  • Exacerbation of chronic physical and mental diseases

Modes of transmission contributing to illness are:

  • Inadvertent ingestion of raw sewage contaminating floodwaters;
  • Fresh wounds with exposure to soil and sewage contaminated waters;
  • Inhalation exposure to mold;
  • Inhalation of carbon monoxide, noxious gases from decomposing biological materials, dust and fumes.

Norovirus and other illness

There is high potential for illness due to Norovirus, and other disease-causing organisms, from exposure to contaminated floodwaters. Individuals who are ill with vomiting or diarrhea should be excluded from working for a minimum of 48 hours after the cessation of symptoms. All employees should follow, as always, strict hand-washing practices to prevent illness.

Contaminated patient/client medical records

State and federal regulations require that patient/client medical records be retained and stored in safe and secure environments for up to five years in general, and medical records of minors must be retained for at least five years beyond the age of majority (i.e., until the patient is 23 years old).

Where existing or stored/archived patient medical records were water-damaged or contaminated by floodwaters, licensed practitioners and healthcare offices need to ensure that the confidentiality and security of damaged client medical records are maintained. Additionally, ensure medical records are secure in place or moved to a secure location. When handling and managing damaged medical records, conduct or arrange for an assessment of medical records to determine:

  • The extent of damage and condition of the medical records;
  • The potential for drying/cleaning/salvaging medical records;

It is important to ensure that the confidentiality and security of client/patient personal medical information (PMI) is appropriately maintained when assessing the extent of damage to records.

In the event it is believed that medical records are irrevocably damaged and cannot be salvaged, healthcare providers should contact the Office of Facilities Regulation at 401-222-2566 before initiating the disposal or disposition of any medical records. Additional information will be provided as needed.