No one likes to think about a large-scale emergency hitting our community, but the staff at Lake Regional Health System understands the importance of being prepared.
“We have developed an emergency response plan, and regular drills let us test that plan and train our staff so we are always ready to serve our community,” said Steve Dougan, Lake Regional Emergency Preparedness coordinator.
On April 12, Lake Regional Health System held two very different emergency drills: a surge drill specific to Lake Regional Health System and an evacuation drill involving hospitals throughout the Region F Healthcare Coalition.
The surge drill provided an opportunity for Lake Regional Emergency Department to practice its response to a sudden influx of patients, including many with time-critical needs. The mock emergency was a building collapse at an area hotel, and about 40 volunteers were made up to look like victims. Their injuries ranged from cuts to crush injuries.
The hospital used its ambulance bay as a triage area, where victims were assessed for injuries and tagged using a color-coding system to indicate severity.
“Surge drills reveal what our stress points would be if we suddenly had to care for several trauma patients in a short amount of time,” Dougan said. “We purposefully created a difficult situation that made it impossible to follow normal routines, so staff had to adapt and create new solutions. Some of the takeaway will be new processes that we could use in a real emergency, and some of the benefit will be improved skills and greater confidence for our staff.”
The evacuation drill was a test not just for Lake Regional but for all hospitals within the Region F Healthcare Coalition, which includes Columbia and Jefferson City, as well as for EMS providers in the area. In this tabletop drill, two hospitals simulated the evacuation of all of their patients. These evacuating facilities used a statewide electronic communications platform (eICS) to find appropriate destinations and transportation for each patient. However, there was no movement of actual patients.
Patients were considered “placed” when 1) there was verbal or written (i.e., email) agreement from another facility that it could provide an appropriate destination for the patient and 2) players had identified appropriate transportation for moving patients to their new locations. The exercise had a 90-minute deadline.
At the exercise’s end, the participants joined a facilitated discussion to explore issues raised.
“These drills provide opportunities for us to learn and improve, so it’s essential that we have discussions at the end, as well as written reports, to help us understand what we did well and what we could do better,” Dougan said. “With every drill, we strengthen our emergency response and make our community safer.”
Lake Regional Health System provides comprehensive health care services to residents and visitors throughout the mid-Missouri region. Lake Regional is the only hospital between Columbia and Springfield that is a state-designated center for trauma, stroke and heart attack. The hospital is a Level II Stroke Center, Level II STEMI (heart attack) Center and Level III Trauma Center. Lake Regional also provides a wide range of specialties, including cancer care, heart care, orthopedics and women’s health. Plus, Lake Regional operates primary care clinics, Express Care clinics, rehab therapy clinics, programs for home health and hospice, and retail pharmacies.