On March 10, representatives from area dialysis clinics worked together to address one of the leading gaps during any emergency: communications. The Knoxville/East Tennessee Healthcare Coalition (KETHC), in partnership with METERS (Middle, East Tennessee Emergency Radio Service), provided a Amateur Radio Technician’s class for interested clinics. The class quickly filled with clinic representatives willing to dedicate the time necessary to study the material and attend an all day training before the test was given to become licensed HAM technician operators.

Dialysis clinics in this region are leading the way to not only identify gaps in overall healthcare preparedness, but coming together to meet those gaps. The corporate lines have been temporarily brushed aside as these facilities eagerly work together to improve the overarching preparedness needs within the healthcare community as a whole.

Dialysis clinics became part of the KET HC in 2015 after participation in a regional water contamination exercise with area hospitals. That exercise demonstrated the need to formalize a partnership with dialysis services. Since then, dialysis has been represented on the coalition and recently has expanded to include a larger dialysis clinic participation between all the corporate agencies in our region: Fresenius, Davita and DCI. On November 6, 2016, the dialysis clinics became a integral part of a region wide exercise that included over 124 participating agencies, including: dialysis, hospitals, EMA, EMS, National Weather Service, Public health (State,county and regional), ambulatory surgical centers, home health agencies, hospices, intermediate care facilities, skilled nursing/long term care facilities, rehabilitation agencies and rural health clinics. This group also meets quarterly to discuss emergency preparedness concerns, regulatory updates, exercise and planning

From these exercises/meetings, redundant communication was quickly identified as a gap that needed to be prioritized. The dialysis clinics partnered with the KET HC and METERS to offer an amateur radio technicians training and the class quickly filled with eager participants. As part of the coalition’s efforts, handheld HAM radios were offered to each clinic free upon successful completion of testing. Testing fees and food were paid by the coalition and METERS instructors volunteered their time.

This is a great example of coordinated efforts between the healthcare community and the coalition to mitigate possible gaps once identified. Creating partnerships, exercising together and identifying needs are without impact unless steps like these are taken to address the potential problems. The KET HC is proud to work alongside partners like the dialysis community that are willing to go above and beyond their typical scope of services to prepare for an emergency and strengthen our preparedness efforts region wide.