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‘Mass casualties’ hit URMC

First Posted: 6:47 am - June 6th, 2015

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Larry Stanford|The Thomaston Times As ambulance personnel bring a ‘tornado victim’ to the Emergency Room at URMC, ER nurses in vests assess the patient’s wounds and determine where they need to be taken. Also on hand at the entrance to the ER was Hospital Security (black shirt), making sure no unauthorized persons gained entrance to the ER.

Larry Stanford|The Thomaston Times Students from Pike County High School’s drama and health clubs display their ‘wounds’ in a group photo after the drill was over. Pike County students were used as patients because Upson-Lee High School was still in session when the drill occurred, while Pike schools were already out for the summer.

Would Upson Regional Medical Center (URMC) be prepared if there were a major disaster in Thomaston or Upson County? Hospital staff had a chance to find out the answer to that question last Friday morning, as the hospital participated in a Region F Hospital-Wide Drill.

The scenario was that a tornado had touched down on the square in Thomaston, damaging buildings, knocking out power and cell phone service, and injuring numerous people. Under the scenario, the injured were being brought in by ambulance and private vehicles, and the Emergency Room staff, supported by other departments in the hospital, had to assess the injuries and determine where the patients needed to go.

Meanwhile, URMC Marketing and Public Relations Director Sallie Barker enlisted the assistance of local news media, asking that they provide her with the questions they would be asking if this were a real emergency. Barker said their assistance was invaluable, as she will now be able to start getting answers for the news media in advance in case there is a real mass casualty situation. Barker added that under the procedures for such an emergency, that Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore would be the main spokesperson, and she would provide him with the information requested by the news media.

Jim Totten, the Emergency Room Nursing Director and Head of Emergency Management for URMC, said overall, he believes the drill went very well.

“We do these drills to test our policies, procedures and responses on how we would do in a real life situation, so if this really happened, hopefully we’d be better prepared for anything that came our way,” Totten said. “This time, a tornado hit downtown Thomaston and we received about 25 victims from that. So, for the ER, we tested how do we receive a mass number of patients that needed immediate care very quickly.

“It involves the whole hospital, not just the ER,” he added. “We sent patients straight to the OR, we sent patients to our minor clinics here. They bring staff down to help the ER, because we have so many people doing this. It was very controlled. The nurses did a great job, and the hospital did a great job as far as coming down to assist the ER.”

Totten also thanked the student volunteers.

“You saw the health students that participated in this drill,” he said. “They did an excellent job. I have to thank the hospital and Mid-Georgia Ambulance for moulaging the people up. That’s where we put the makeup on the people so they look like real injuries. When the nurses and doctors go in there, they can actually see the real injuries like they do in real life.”

Participating in the scenario were hospital staff, the Upson Emergency Management Agency (EMA), Golden Living Center, the Upson County Sheriff’s Department, Thomaston Police Department, drama and health students from Pike County High School, and various other organizations within the county.

Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.

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