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Tucson-area hospitals prepare for disasters

Posted: 3:54 PM, Jul 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-17 22:13:29Z

They are the people we need most in life-threatening situations, but just how prepared are emergency rooms to handle anything that comes their way?

A recent study by the American College of Emergency Physicians indicated doctors in emergency departments were split when asked if their hospital is ready to respond to the influx of patients.

Hospitals say they are constantly working to improve and be ready to handle the large number of patients that come during a disaster.

Jennifer Schomburg is the Chief Administrative Officer at Northwest Medical Center. She says staff regularly train for natural and man-made disasters.

“We try to match the drills with what really is going on in the public,” she said. “Unfortunately, we've seen an increase in mass shootings, things of that nature, we have altered and tailored our drills to match those things we're seeing in the public.”

When those days come, Schomburg says Northwest can connect with other hospitals in the region so everyone, from public health officials, to state and federal authorities, to hospital managers know which facilities have which resources. Northwest and other hospitals participate in the Hospital Incident Command System, a national network of hospitals.

“Any time you're in the middle of a stressful situation having commonalities and definitions, knowing exactly what people are talking about the first time without significant explanation, is very nice to streamline things to make them efficient and ensure we have as quick a response as possible to a disaster,” Schomburg said.

The ACEP reports 63% of ER doctors surveyed responded they believe their department has access to real-time data regarding resources in the region.

Tucson Medical Center provided this statement on its preparedness drills:

“Tucson Medical Center engages ongoing and extensive disaster training to best prepare our facilities and staff to meet medical care needs during an adverse event. TMC also regularly participates in national and county-wide exercises to ensure strong communication with our community partners, and that we provide a coordinated response. The frequency and extent of our preparation are part of our mission to provide exceptional care with compassion to the Southern Arizona community.”   

- Bill Fleming, Director of Security Services, Tucson Medical Center

Coordinated response plans include scenarios like: a terror attack, shooting, plane crash, even a chemical spill following a train derailment.

“So, if there happened to be a chemical spill or something of that nature we actually have a decontamination unit specifically trained for those types of chemicals,” Schomburg said.