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Detroit hospitals put their disaster plans to the test
11 area hospitals participated in smallpox drill
Hospitals are paying much more attention to their Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations-mandated emergency preparedness plans now that terrorist threats could call them into action at any time. Hospitals in the Detroit area recently tested their plans with a regional disaster preparation drill.
The drill was a collaboration among 11 hospitals in Detroit, including Children’s Hospital of Michigan; Detroit Receiving Hospital; Harper University Hospital; Henry Ford Hospital; Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital; St. John Detroit Riverview Hospital; Specialized Complex Care Inc.; Sinai-Grace Hospital; St. John Hospital; St. John North-east Community Hospital; and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, as well as Bon Secours Hospital in Grosse Pointe. Volunteers taking part in the drill acted as patients and were dressed with the early physical symptoms of smallpox.
Starting at about 7 a.m., volunteers began arriving at the participating hospitals, where emergency department personnel were unaware of the drill. The "no-notice" drill was planned for nearly a year, says Jenny Atas, MD, chair of the regional planning committee for the City of Detroit’s Local Emergency Planning Committee. The drill continued until 1 p.m. "We wanted to test the internal emergency processes and responses of our area hospitals. Keeping the time, date, and details of the drill a secret was key to its effectiveness."
Atas also is the chair of the Emergency Pre-paredness Committee for the Detroit Medical Center.
In addition to personnel from the participating hospitals, the nearly 50-person drill-planning committee consisted of representatives from the Detroit Health Department; the Michigan Community Health Department, the Detroit Fire Department Divisions of Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services, and the Wayne County Public Health Department. The proposed drill was approved by the Detroit mayor’s office.
"This is the first time this many Detroit area hospitals have come together, collaborating with the area health departments and other agencies, on an emergency preparedness drill," Atas says. "Not only was the drill very successful in testing our medical personnel, but we’ve established a connection within the core group of individuals that can be quickly activated in the event of a true large-scale emergency."
In accordance with major communicable disease policy and planning established by the state of Michigan and implemented by the hospitals, the Detroit Health Department and the Michigan Community Health Department were appropriately notified of the diagnoses of the "patients," which is a critical step in limiting exposure to the general population.
"Our hope was that the medical teams at the participating hospitals recognized the symptoms of smallpox and implemented the proper emergency and notification procedures," Atas says. "We’re very pleased with the outcome of the drill."
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