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Luis Hospital Tests Itself with Mock Disaster

Dec. 11, 2006 — The Juan F. Luis Hospital held a disaster drill Monday in an effort to maintain safety standards.
JFLH is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospital Organizations. "Commission standards require that the hospital tests the response phase of its emergency-management plan twice a year," a hospital news release said.
The scenario: "At approximately 9:30 a.m. Monday morning, an American Airlines 727 aircraft crashes on the airport runway during takeoff on a flight to Miami. The flight is full and there are reportedly many injuries; some of (the passengers) are in serious condition."
Hospital employees were asked to volunteer for the exercise. Helen Shirley, chief respiratory therapist, said she was not told the reason for the drill. "Be careful what you volunteer for," she said.
McCammon said the "passengers" would come into the hospital with varying degrees of injury and would be triaged, or sorted into codes: green for the walking wounded, yellow for those with broken bones and red for those needing to go to the operating or emergency rooms.
Paulette Marin, a registered nurse, acted as triage nurse for the exercise. A major component of triage is to make sure all contaminants are removed from the body, Martin said. Then she assessed the patients and tagged them according to their degree of injury.
"The challenge of the hospital is to determine if we have as much health care professionals as possible," McCammon said. The hospital is also evaluated on continuing to care for patients already admitted to the hospital. Surge beds are provided by the V.I. Territorial Management Agency (VITEMA) and are used in the event rooms in the hospital are at capacity.
"This is a drill," reminded Elroy Harrison, VITEMA deputy director. In the event of a real emergency, he said, hospital officials would contact VITEMA to coordinate and dispatch fire, police and emergency personnel.
For purposes of the exercise, the hospitals gates were closed. If a disaster involves chemicals, McCammon said, the hospital must go under lock down. "The ability to effectively lock the facility down to control access to the hospital in the event there is a chemical implement is a vital part of our plan," he said.
Peter Cunnius, a visiting fellow from Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, was asked to evaluate the hospital's progress.
"The drill was successful," Cunnius said. He evaluated the hospital's ability to communicate, get information to the designated commanders and ensure the hospital continues service to current patients and conduct business as usual. Every hospital can improve on its actions, Cunnius said, yet he said JFLH used excellent communication.
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