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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Republican National Convention

The numbers were dizzying: 15,000 media personnel and masses of tourists and visitors congregating in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention (RNC). Planning began over a year in advance to prepare the city for any type of emergency and safely accommodate all of the anticipated visitors. The Northeast Ohio Regional Health Care Coalition (HCC), funded by ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), proved critical to coordinating the city’s medical preparations.

The Northeast Ohio Regional HCC is a network of hospitals, EMS, public health departments, and emergency management services that work together to prepare for disasters. “We were eager to begin planning for the RNC because we already had a great foundation of procedures and relationships built through the HCC,” shared Dr. Michael Anderson, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of University Hospitals Cleveland, an HCC member. “Twelve years of HPP funding has enabled our hospitals to purchase equipment and supplies proactively, as well as build strong networks and relationships. Because of the Northeast Ohio Regional HCC, we know each other and our joint capabilities,” added Beth Gatlin, Emergency Preparedness Director at the Center for Health Affairs, which co-leads the HCC.

Calling upon those relationships, resources, and communication channels, as well as drawing upon shared experience, the team began to revise and compile new plans in preparation for the RNC. “We met for hours every Friday for months to prepare,” shared Mr. James Meola, Director of Emergency Management for The Cleveland Clinic, another HCC member. The team developed working groups and connected with cities that had hosted conventions previously, incorporating their lessons-learned.

Northeast Ohio Regional HCC members reached out to 27 hospitals and specialty medical facilities throughout the state and as far away as Pennsylvania to prepare surge support, and they coordinated closely with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Secret Service to ensure information was shared accordingly. Leading up to and during the Convention, the team led information management efforts, surveying health care facilities daily to ensure inventories of specialized equipment, contact information, blood inventories, and hospital bed availability were up-to-date.

“Without the Northeast Ohio Regional HCC, there would have not been a centralized body to coordinate all of the different players and information sources involved with the Convention,” noted Dr. Anderson. “When you stop and contemplate what could happen if your city all of a sudden needed to care for 20,000 people, you recognize the importance of an HCC.”

“Due to rigorous preparation, organization, and partnership, over 165 departments in The Cleveland Clinic hospitals and health centers now have procedures for a variety of emergencies, from Complex Coordinated Attacks/mass casualty events to foodborne illness,” stated Mr. Meola, reflecting on the planning that went into the RNC. The city now has a specific operational plan that tracks the capacity of each HCC health care facility, ensuring that HCC members can support each other and prevent any one facility from becoming overwhelmed. The team maintains a shared website with recommended staffing plans, contact information, and disaster protocols so that all HCC members can jump into action, when needed.

“Now that the Convention is over, we will absolutely continue to plan and exercise together,” added Mr. Meola. “It was through joint HPP exercises that we identified over a thousand extra beds in The Cleveland Clinic hospitals should there be a surge in patients. We have strong relationships and protocols in place through the Northeast Ohio Regional HCC – we know we are prepared."

Reflecting back on all of the team’s efforts, Dr. Anderson noted that Cleveland’s proven reputation as a ready and prepared city may attract more big events to the area. “We can’t rest on our laurels now,” he said. “We need to keep the Northeast Ohio Regional HCC active and ready, and we know we can count on HPP for support and guidance.”

  • This page last reviewed: December 16, 2016