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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Disaster drill tests hospital staff

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Disaster drill tests hospital staff

A disaster drill put paramedics and hospital staff to the task of handling victims of a terrorist act. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
A disaster drill put paramedics and hospital staff to the task of handling victims of a terrorist act. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

The Emergency Room at St. Elizabeth Health Services was tested by disaster Monday — and this time it was only a test.

The hospital underwent an emergency preparedness drill to make sure the facilities and staff can handle any type of emergency and to improve in areas that were lacking at the previous two drills this year, said Dave McCloskey, disaster coordinator and ER manager.

In August, McCloskey met with Baker City Fire Chief Tim Frost and Mark Bennett, Baker County emergency planner, to organize the emergency drill.

"The hospital and community are both charged with being ready for disasters," McCloskey said.

The disaster was staged to be the result of a terrorist action. Eight students from Baker High School played the role of firefighters who had been poisoned with cyanide.

McCloskey said that only six people inside the hospital knew the drill was going to happen.

Denise Van Artsdalen, director of communications at St. Elizabeth, said, "We've been putting our policies and procedures together for this sort of thing. It gave us a chance to see how we interact together."

McCloskey said that they wanted to work on improving patient tracking and transportation, communication within the hospital between departments, teamwork and coordination between ER staff and patient care areas, and involvement of the administration.

"We made significant improvements on all of them and found holes in a few different spots," he said.

Those improvements were made even when there were real patients in the emergency room at the time of the surprise disaster.

"Within minutes of it starting, a real patient arrived at the emergency room door who was a real emergency," McCloskey said. "The staff did great moving from mock patient to real patient."

And these drills aren't only for the staff who are at the hospital at the time of the emergency.

"The whole hospital will respond — nurses are called in, doctors are called in," Lynn Farstad, LNP, said.

The drill is also a test of response time, which may be critical in case of a real disaster.

"You need to know at any given point how many can come and how fast," Dr. Nancy Hutnak said.

She also said that physicians and nurses take continuing education classes and are individually tested with emergency scenarios.

"When we have a disaster drill, we get to coordinate with everyone else," Hutnak said. "Everything kind of meshes together and you walk away thinking, ‘hey, this turned out pretty good.' "

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