Medical Exercise Prepares Hospital Before Hurricane Ida

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A week before Hurricane Ida made landfall, Bayne-Jones Army Community (BJAC) Hospital tested capabilities during a full scale exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana. The exercise was designed to test hospital functions and efficiencies in the aftermath of a severe weather incident. BJACH conducts drills on a regular basis to test facility capabilities in an emergency situation.

Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Williams, respiratory therapist and emergency department non-commissioned officer in charge, said testing the capabilities of the hospital is important for the staff and the installation. “On the medical side of things, we know what to do, how to react and how to treat patients who come through the door,” he said. “This exercise is important so everyone knows what the plan is, what to do in a crisis and how we all need to work together if there is a real world situation.”

Williams said the mass casualty (MASCAL) plan is initiated by the hospital commander when the amount of patients coming in will overload the normal system.

“At that time we will enact our crisis operations plan,” Williams said. “We will bring our forces together from every department in the hospital. Each key and essential staff member, both military and civilian, has a role to play. Some are directed to our manpower pool and given directions on where to go based on the needs of the organization during a crisis. Others already know what section to report to if there is an emergency and will immediately head there when the code is called.”

Williams said if the patients come in fast, the normal intake process can be overloaded. If that happens the hospital commander is advised and the crisis operation plan is executed.

“It stresses our system to help us identify areas of improvement,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Cash, deputy commander for clinical services at BJACH. “No organization is perfect and it helps us tweak our processes if necessary. When there is a large influx of patients we will take care of them here or transport them to other hospitals in our network for higher levels of care.”

Staff Sergeant Jacob Dyer, patient administration division (PAD) non-commissioned officer in charge, said his department is the entry and exit point of Army Medicine.

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“In a MASCAL situation it is the responsibility of PAD to track and identify each patient from the time they arrive and depart the hospital,” he said. “We will know exactly where they are at all times and what their status is.”

In preparation for an airborne operation this summer, he said his department created mass casualty folders in the event there were a large number of injuries.

“Sometimes in a crisis situation we have to rely on old school methods to expedite the process to ensure we are providing the best care as quickly as possible,” Dyer said.  “We use these mass casualty folders to keep track of our patients in a paper format. Sometimes power is affected during an emergency, sometimes patients come in unconscious or without proper identification.  This process allows us to keep track of them until we can properly identify and ensure continuity of care by documentation.”

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