In a disaster or mass casualty event, first responders and hospitals have to be ready to respond immediately. How prepared are Erie’s hospitals?
You don’t want to think about it, but hospitals must prepare for the worst-case scenario. UPMC Hamot and St. Vincent say they are prepared. UPMC Hamot is Erie’s only trauma center, the next closest being in Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
In a violent attack, like the situation in Las Vegas, hundreds are transported to the hospital with a variety of injuries. At UPMC Hamot, Gregory Beard, the Medical Director of Trauma, says they are prepared, and that they train for this. “The emergency room here is the busiest emergency room in the UPMC system, 70 to 80 thousand people a year, so we are obviously equipped to handle volume”.
The hospital is equipped with 35 emergency rooms, 9 triage rooms, and can utilize the ambulance bay as a place to attend to victims. The hospital is staffed with 9 trauma surgeons, one in the hospital 24/7, 365 days a year. Cooperation and coordination between surgeons, nurses, administrators and personnel is key to the successful treatment of a large number of patients.
Beard tells us, “we have expert triage nurses, we have triage staff here, as well as our trauma surgeons are all fully equipped to do that. so we can tell very very quickly the patients who are less critically injured and the ones who are not critically injured”.
Should the trauma center at UPMC Hamot become filled to capacity; other local hospitals step in to provide the same care for those victims. Dr. Wayne Jones, Medical Director at St. Vincent Hospital, says anytime a violent situation occurs, the hospital goes on lock-down for the safety of those in the hospital and those coming in for treatment, and a protocol is in place to respond. Jones says “we have a standard protocol. We call doctors, nurses, technicians… we can open more rooms, intensive care unit beds and so forth”.
Jones says the hospital reviews protocol regularly and practice procedures at least twice a year.